"Certainly no one wants anyone to be discriminated against, but at the same time those who infuse faith into their particular education curriculum and expect certain behaviors should have the right to operate that way," Dolejsi commented.
The Catholic conference's concerns include the bill's redefinition of a faith-based organization. The conference opposes the bill unless there are amendments "to clarify it in a way that allows faith-based organizations and institutions to operate in a way consistent with who they are," Dolejsi continued.
He suggested the bill's sponsor, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-San Francisco) has a narrower view of faith-based institutions than what the Catholic community would find acceptable.
The senator has indicated that faith-based colleges and universities may have their policies, procedures, and statements of faith, but Dolejsi questioned whether he was willing to let the schools live by them. If someone felt these schools are discriminatory and took legal action, they would have to spend "a significant amount" of resources in court, according to Dolejsi.
"California has established strong protections for the LGBTQ community and private universities should not be able to use faith as an excuse to discriminate and avoid complying with state laws," Sen. Lara said. "No university should have a license to discriminate."
Backers of the Senate bill include Equality California, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Transgender Law Center.
Masteller said Thomas Aquinas College was guided by Catholic teaching, including the teaching that God created man male and female.
"There's implications to that in how we live," he said.
"The college has no discriminatory intent towards any person," he explained. "What we do discriminate against is conduct or activity that violates our Catholic character."
For instance, he said, the college would not allow a transgender male to live in the dorms of the opposite sex, nor would it allow a same-sex marriage ceremony in its Catholic chapel.
"We're not going to sacrifice our Catholic character at all," Masteller said.
(Story continues below)
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"This is really a religious liberty issue. The exemption has been in the statute for so long. It's nothing more than a reflection of the reality of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, that every citizen has the right to free exercise of religion," he said. "That means a religious community has a right to be able to live according to their religious principles and regulate their own community that way."
The bill's text exempts only religious-controlled educational institutions that prepare students to become ministers or theological teachers.
For institutions that seek a religious exemption provided Title IX of federal law, the bill would require disclosure of this exemption to current and prospective students, faculty and employees.
Dolejsi said the Catholic conference agreed with the bill's provisions regarding full disclosure to students about the kind of school they have chosen and the school's expectations.
"The rules should be applied equally, and these rules can extend to behaviors," he said. "Whether you want to be gay or straight, you will behave appropriately in such a way that that particular faith group wants. If you violate that, don't go to school there."
"It's a struggle for trying to deal with people compassionately and responsibly, and (with) political ideology that some people would have everyone genuflect to," he said.