Potential First Amendment Violation for Cal.

6 09 2006

Filed under: First Amendment, Church and State, Judges

A California judge gave a boost to several Christian schools’ case against the University of California involving a possible First Amendment violation.

Two years ago, the UC Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools (BOARS) systematically rejected core courses taught in private Christian schools. If Christian schools wanted to offer, say, physics using a Bob Jones University Press textbook, fine, BOARS said. But students taking that course would not meet the physics requirement necessary to gain admission to the UC system.

BOARS based its decision exclusively on the fact that the BJU text added a Christian viewpoint to an otherwise standard physics curriculum. After UC rejected a series of other courses, in history, biology, government, and literature, the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) sued.

Can we all say it together now? H-u-m-a-n-i-s-m! Diversity and tolerance. That’s our motto. Well, with a few insignificant exceptions, that is. No Christianity.

That’s no little exception! Contrary to worldly belief, the Constitution does not omit Christians. It’s humanism.

In a suit filed in federal court in August 2005, ACSI, co-plaintiff Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murietta, Calif., and individually named students claimed that UC had violated both the California constitution and the group’s First Amendment rights to free speech, association, and exercise of religion. Two months later, UC filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that ACSI’s claims had no merit.

District Judge S. James Otero disagreed. While the jurist on Aug. 8, 2006, dismissed ACSI’s state constitutional claims based on the federal court’s lack of jurisdiction, Otero summarily slapped down most of UC’s dismissal motion. That means the religious discrimination suit against the nation’s largest state university system will proceed—and likely with national implications.

Otero cited the 1981 Supreme Court ruling in Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana as being most applicable to ACSI’s case: When the state denies an important benefit—in this case admission to the state university system—because of “conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, a burden upon religion exists.”

There’s that phrase again, coming out of California again, too. Remember:

Senate Bill 1441 is designed to amend the existing Section 11135, extending the ban on discrimination in state operated or funded programs to gays – including services like police and fire protection, financial aid, social services and food stamps.

The Supreme Court in 1981 ruled that when the state denies an important benefit because of “conduct mandated by religious belief, thereby putting substantial pressure on an adherent to modify his behavior and to violate his beliefs, a burden upon religion exists.”

But hey, it is being used in its correct context once again.

In Otero’s opinion, the ACSI plaintiffs had shown adequately that they had been forced to choose between providing and taking courses that promote a biblical moral view or complying with the university’s admission requirements.

UC also argued that ACSI had no valid First Amendment claim because the university was “not stopping Plaintiffs from saying whatever they choose and because the University has its own First Amendment right to establish rigorous admission standards.” Otero, however, upheld ACSI’s contention that UC’s censoring of Christian viewpoints likely violated the First Amendment.

And UC likely had, Otero added: “Bias against a person because of her religion has been characterized by the Supreme Court as an invidious discrimination,” he wrote. “By extension, it is difficult to imagine how discrimination because of a particular manifested religious viewpoint could itself be anything less than invidious.”

Well said. This case could have national implications because it happens to be in the state of California. This notion that humanist schools think they can dictate which worldviews are acceptable and those that are not is a highly dangerous trend that I certainly hope and pray we can avoid.

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