A new California bill that’s intended to prohibit hate group members from becoming police officers also would prevent conservative Christians and pro-lifers from serving in law enforcement, according to two watchdogs in the state.
The bill, AB 655, was introduced in February by Democratic Assemblyman Ash Kalra as the “California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act.” The text of the bill would require that background investigations be conducted to determine if police officer candidates have “engaged in membership in a hate group,” participated in hate group activities, or made public expressions of hate.
Yet the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute each say the bill’s language is so broad that it would exclude members of non-hate groups, including police officer candidates affiliated with pro-life groups and conservative Christian churches. That’s because the bill defines “hate group” as an organization that “advocates for, or practices the denial of constitutional rights” of any group of persons “based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability.”
By that definition, groups that oppose abortion and same-sex marriage could be labeled as “hate groups,” according to the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute. Both abortion and same-sex marriage are constitutionally protected under Supreme Court precedent.
“Under the guise of addressing police gangs, the bill at the same time launches an inexplicable, unwarranted, and unprecedented attack on peaceable, conscientious officers who happen to hold conservative political and religious views,” said Pacific Justice Institute senior staff attorney Matthew McReynolds. “Indeed, this is one of the most undisguised and appalling attempts we have ever seen, in more than 20 years of monitoring such legislation, on the freedom of association and freedom to choose minority viewpoints.”
McReynolds asked: “Is the Catholic Church a ‘hate group’ because it advocates for the sanctity of life and thereby rejects the constitutional rights of women to obtain abortion? Are the thousands of churches in California [that] voiced support for Proposition 8, the traditional definition of marriage, ‘hate groups’ because they opposed LGBTQ constitutional rights to marry?”
The bill is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 6, according to the California Family Council.
Photo courtesy: Fred Mouniguet/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.