The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission issued a powerful public statement today denouncing the proposed California legislation that would dramatically affect the liberty, even the very existence of the state’s religious colleges — all in the state’s attempt to expand LGBT rights. From the statement:

We, the undersigned, do not necessarily agree with one another’s religious views, but we agree on the necessity of the liberty to exercise these views. At the root of the American experiment is the idea that conscience and religious conviction come before the demands of the state. Some of us disagree with the sexual ethics of orthodox Jews, Christians, and Muslims giving rise to this legislation, but we are unified in our resistance to the government setting up its own system of orthodoxy. As the American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.” No less is this true than on matters of religious liberty. Where the state can encroach on one religion’s free exercise, it can just as easily trample on any other religion’s free exercise. We therefore join in solidarity across religious lines to speak against Senate Bill 1146.

We call on the California Assembly to abandon Senate Bill 1146. To ensure the future of the free exercise of religion in higher education in California and across America, we respectfully call on the supporters of Senate Bill 1146 to immediately withdraw their support of this bill, with the commitment to disavow similar intrusions in the future. Opposition to this bill is not grounded in the protection of religious liberty only, nor for the special pleading of one religion in particular, but for the protection of American society and American democracy. Such protection requires a civil society welcoming of religious diversity.

It’s strong, necessary stuff; read the whole thing. The long list of signatories include well-known Protestants and Catholics, as well as some Jews and Muslims. The ERLC has been circulating this privately for some time, and is still taking signatories. All you have to do is go to the site and sign.

A friend writes to say:

Where is Baylor? Where is Calvin College? Gordon College? Wheaton? Pepperdine? Leaders of Christianity Today?

Note small Catholic schools, few majors — in terms of leadership.

I wonder why Brigham Young is not on here.

Maybe the list is still developing.

Though clearly this statement got around pretty widely, I don’t know how widely this statement circulated in advance of its publication, so the absence of anybody on this list is not necessarily evidence of a refusal of any person or institution to sign. It is now in the public domain, though, and signatories are invited through August 23. And before you ask, I cannot sign it as a TAC writer and editor because I cannot risk endangering the magazine’s tax-exempt status. Still, I leave it to the reader to discern where I stand on the issue at hand.

I do notice the lack of a single Roman Catholic or Orthodox bishop’s name on the list. In charity, I presume that they did not have a chance to see the statement prior to publication. There may be another good explanation for their absence, but one expects that oversight to be amended quickly. It would be noteworthy if the Southern Baptist pastor Russell Moore becomes the de facto leader of all American Christians in fighting for religious liberty, but if that’s how it’s going to be, that’s good to know. Grateful to God for courageous friends everywhere, Christian and otherwise.

A prominent Catholic engaged in the religious liberty fight in the medical field e-mailed today and mentioned how gloomy he is about the fight upon us now, and in the years ahead:

Unless our leaders (I come back to our bishops) take a leadership role it will be difficult to get the public to appreciate, first, and secondly to act on the dangers approaching in healthcare. I don’t hold out much hope.

Well, bishops? Well, leaders of Christian colleges not on the list? We either hang together on this one, or we hang separately. What’s happening in California is massively important, in part because if the #LoveWins haters win this one, they won’t stop in California. You have been warned. Stand up, don’t cower.

UPDATE: This just in from a Christian academician in California:

Many might see an email like this or a statement like the one released by the ERLC as something that we are sharing in order to secure power and privilege for Christians only – this is simply not the case. The precedent set by the passage of a bill like this leads to a very slippery slope – one that will permit for the removal of any and all rights simply because some legislator does not like something that someone else is doing, so a bill is written in order to forbid or constrict the disliked action or belief. I want to be clear that this is not just an issue of sexual ethics or sexual freedom, it an issue of soul freedom and an outright attack on the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms that are so important for the flourishing of all – people of all faiths and none.

UPDATE: A Catholic reader from California writes to say that Los Angeles’s Archbishop Gomez has been very outspoken against the bill. Not sure why he didn’t sign the statement, but it’s not because he is unwilling to speak out against SB1146. Great to know. It could be that other Catholic bishops are waiting on Gomez to take the lead, out of respect for his regional prerogative. That’s just my guess.