MURRIETA: Judge throws out religious discrimination suit

Calvary Chapel attorney to appeal ruling

By RANI GUPTA - Staff Writer | Friday, August 8, 2008 10:50 PM PDT

A federal judge in Los Angeles has thrown out the remaining claims of Calvary Chapel Christian School, which sued the University of California alleging university officials rejected some courses for credit because of their Christian viewpoint.

U.S. District Judge James Otero said in a summary judgment ruling released Friday that the school had failed to show evidence that UC officials had violated the First Amendment rights of the five Calvary students who sued along with the school and the Association of Christian Schools International.

Robert Tyler, an attorney who represented Calvary, said Friday night that the decision will be appealed.

"We always believed we were going to have to get up in the higher courts before we would get a ruling that would be favorable to us," said Tyler, general counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a religious liberty law firm in Murrieta.

In March, Otero threw out the Christian school's broader claims that UC policies were unconstitutional on their face. Friday's ruling concerned Calvary's claims that the policies were also unconstitutional as they were applied in the review of several classes.

Otero wrote that Calvary "provided no evidence of animus" on the part of university officials, whom he said had a "rational basis" for determining that the proposed Calvary courses would not meet the UC college preparatory requirements.

For instance, a UC professor who reviewed Calvary's proposed Christianity's Influence on America class said the course used a textbook that "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events," "attributes historical events to divine providence rather than analyzing human action," and "contains inadequate treatment of several major ethnic groups, women and non-Christian religious groups."

Another university professor agreed that the textbook from Bob Jones University shouldn't be used for a college-preparatory history class because it didn't encourage critical thinking skills and failed to cover "major topics, themes and components" of U.S. history, Otero wrote.

The judge said Calvary provided little admissible evidence to the contrary.

The court also ruled that UC officials had a rational reason to reject a course called World Religions for elective credit.

University reviewers had asked Calvary to accurately identify the book because they could not verify its existence and asked the school to show how the class "treats the study of religion from the standpoint of scholarly inquiry," Otero's ruling said. He said Calvary provided no evidence they had tried to clarify the content.

"[T]he course rejection feedback makes clear that the course may have been approved with minimal clarification," the judge wrote.

University officials have said they approved 43 courses from Calvary Chapel, which Tyler said Calvary students have used to gain admission to UC schools. There are other ways to be admitted, such as high test scores. However, Tyler said he fears schools will become afraid to teach from a Christian perspective.

"We're worried in the long term, Christian education is going to be continually watered down in order to satisfy the UC school system," he said.

A university spokesman could not be reached for comment late Friday.

Contact staff writer Rani Gupta at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2625, or rgupta@californian.com.

Advertisement

26 comment(s)[-]Go to Top

Well.... wrote on Aug 9, 2008 7:47 AM:...go to a Christian college! There are plenty of them out there! If you want to go to a UC school, you have to meet their criteria. You just do. While rejecting public grade school and being a separatist through grade school might be attractive, you must realize that UC and CSU's *are* public schools - they do not have to recognize religion-based courses (sometimes taught by non-credentialed teachers!) You can't wrap the system around your beliefs. If you want a Christian-based education, that is fine - you get one. Your choice, but it's not everyone's choice. But parents that choose this route better be involved enough to make sure that what their kids are being taught will get them where they want - not file a lawsuit after the fact. Or, go to a Christian college that will accept those courses.

wow wrote on Aug 9, 2008 8:55 AM:The students at Cavalry aren't being educated they are being indoctrinated. The main point of an education is to teach the students how to think critically. The main point of christian education is to eliminate critical thinking in favor of only seeing the world through a christian perspective. While this is fine if thats what a parent wants for their children it is totally unacceptable in the scholarly world of the UCs. Bringing a law suit to try to force the world to accept the very narrow view of right wing christians is absurd and will (and by rights should) ultimately lose.

News wrote on Aug 9, 2008 10:15 AM:Is it necessary when editing to use descriptives like, "thrown out" and "on their face"?

How a tale is covered relects the publishers spin and intent for the overall community at large.

Choice words like, "sued" as opposed to challenged, defended, acted to self-preserve, uphold the privelege, or constitutional right were deliberatly overlooked for sensationalism?

I'm aware that there are people that druther in our society that are complety vicariously programed at both ends of the social scale. But, at what point does the media play at offering unbiased reporting?

To wow.. wrote on Aug 9, 2008 11:03 AM:Private education is very important these days. I mean in the public school they are teaching homosexuality and things that do not meet the requirments to get into a public college. So you tell me where do we draw the line? My kids are in public schools and the schools are failing. Lets also not forget, the teachings of a christian school can also help with teaching our youngsters how to deal with todays society problems. Turn and blind eye and our problems in todays world will be a lot worse. Not to mention......if this was turned around and someone was sueing a Christian College because the state funded schools didn't meet their requirements you can bet, the Christain College would loose.

trinity wrote on Aug 9, 2008 8:55 PM:I went to Private Christian schools all my life to 12th grade, except for one year. My high school had 2 goals - religious instruction and college prep.
Everyone knew that and so, we went to school from 8:30 - 4 pm and took classes in religion and the highest level of classes to get into the UC and/or be prepared for any Ivy League school. No one presumed that because we were a Christian school that we should be given preferential treatment by any college, public or private! Our parents paid for this education and expected nothing less. Religious instruction was never used as an excuse to get into a college that a student did not meet the requirements for.
I guarantee you that private schools like Havard, Stanford and Yale have stringent requirements that are not up for grabs by anyone trying to justify a substandard level of college prep courses, under any guise, let alone a religious one!
The fact that Calvary wants any college to bend to their curriculum is at best, not educationally sound and at worst, arrogant and harmful to students attending! They should stop wasting money on going to court and start properly educating their students so they can be admitted to any UC and spread the Christian word to any and all!

to to wow wrote on Aug 9, 2008 11:58 PM:My kids have yet to be taught "homosexuality" at public school. But even if it were, if my "faith" as a Christian were strong enough, it would not matter, would it? For a bunch that has God on their side, there is so much fear! And, I went to a private Christian school from 7 - 12th grade and things happen there. In fact, our "chaplain" was unwed and pregnant the year after graduation. Go figure...

But, that is not the point - the point is, the UC system has it's standards and always has. These parents, probably with lots of money to burn, are filing a bogus lawsuit to try to force the UC system to accept their children, who's education they should have been watching all along. Now, the UC must pay for representation to fight this stupid lawsuit, a cost which will no doubt be funded by raising already high college fees. All because Junior's faith couldn't be trusted among the homosexuals and druggies that are so obviously rampant in public schools. Money talks, I guess.

religous freedom wrote on Aug 11, 2008 9:22 AM:I think its great that cavalry tried to get their point of view across to the u.c system. i wonder if they ever thought it would happen though or if they were just trying to make a statement. This is America and that is what its all about. However, i have taken several history classes in college. One in particular when we were discussing different Jesus based religous groups baptist, catholics etc, when one young girl exclaimed I am a Christian and the teacher replied All of these groups are christian and the poor girl was left in total dismay. My point being that when i attended these classes in about 2005 i quickly learned that the christian bible was "not" considered scholarly knowledge, But, at that time "neither" was the internet. Who knows maybe this action will eventually turn the uc's outlook around as well.

Alex wrote on Aug 11, 2008 8:47 PM:Our country's perspective defintely has changed from it's original intent. Even academia was firmly rooted with a moral compass as it's guide. Harvard, Yale, and even USC began as religious institutions with the intent of dispensing faith-based instruction. Now what was once considered right is now labeled wrong and vice-versa. Where is the tolerance our present society supposedly preaches? Religious school curricula is immersed with absolutes but can't we also say that about public school? The field of mathematics teaches a definite process is inherent in adding, subtracting or multiplying numerals. Yet it is because of these defined formulas that man can build skyscrapers and send rockets to the moon. The sole intent of secular humanists that now fill positions in public school and college boards across our great nation, is to take God out of the equation. The rules of the game have changed and now this all pervasive intolerance is aimed at those who share the belief that an all loving God does exist. And humanism buries it's head in the sand and feebly blurts out that He doesn't.

Adam wrote on Aug 11, 2008 11:12 PM:To News:
Actually, "on their face" is a translation of the legal term "prima facie". Calvary was claiming there was prima facie evidence they were being discriminated against. Similarly, a case is said to be thrown out of court. Would you rather the reporter made up their own, less accurate and less precise terms?

To Alex wrote on Aug 12, 2008 8:11 AM:It's interesting that in your post you seem so averse to change. It's part of the nature of scholarly honesty that positions change as observable reality contradicts dogma. Change is the responsible thing to do when confronted with solid evidence that contradicts baseless claims. Yes, those three private institutions you've mentioned have changed, but that may not be a bad thing. The culture has changed, and I, for one, am thrilled (by the incorporation of civil and women's rights, for instance).

"Where is the tolerance...?" Certainly not in the Calvary curriculum, that's for sure. Not including history that involves women and minorities in the history lessons? No wonder the UC's don't think the classes prepared the students! The UC system is just maintaining its standards, which I'm quite grateful for. I don't want my UC degree watered down because they've started taking in students that are missing basic background in, say, history, without requiring that they fill in the gaps. Not to mention the sciences...

"Religious school curricula is immersed with absolutes but can't we also say that about public school? "

Sure, if you think the statement "If you have two apples and you get two more, you have four apples" is equivalent to "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." In terms of being demonstrably, consistently true, you don't have to believe anything but your own eyes and reason to get the apple thing right. Those formulas aren't built on faith, you know.

"The sole intent of secular humanists that now fill positions in public school and college boards across our great nation, is to take God out of the equation."

I never saw a single god in any of my equations, that's true. But maybe gravity works differently in private schools?

"all pervasive intolerance is aimed at those who share the belief that an all loving God does exist"

Actually, in this case, I don't see intolerance for anything except substandard education. If they were a secular private school that failed to include important figures and events in their history classes, or used textbooks that are not up to the level of the UC, I have little doubt that the UC system would not give credit for those classes either.

Seriously, though, our nation is great in part because we are a nation of explorers and creative thinkers. Inhibiting the education of the next generation in the hopes of creating a single Christian monoculture does us no favors. Whether someone believes in a god, or doesn't, should be no impediments to their learning critical thinking skills and history. To borrow from a great free-thinking American, it's clear that this Calvary school is getting in the way of their student's education.

Cactus Wren wrote on Aug 12, 2008 10:33 AM:To the poster of Aug 9, 2008 10:15 AM:

If the legal system uses the phrase "thrown out", then that's the phrase to use. The case was THROWN OUT. "On their face" is the translation of the legal-Latin term "prima facie", which was Calvary Chapel Christian School's claim: that the university's policies were PRIMA FACIE unconstitutional. Nor can the paper's use of the word "sued" to describe a LAWSUIT be called "sensational".

Cactus Wren wrote on Aug 12, 2008 10:51 AM:To the poster of Aug 11, 2008 9:22 AM:

"It's", not "its". ("I think IT IS great".)

"Calvary", not "cavalry". "Cavalry" is a mounted military force.

Caps on "Calvary", "U.C.", "I", "Baptist", "Catholic", "Christian", and "Bible", and at the beginning of every sentence.

Quotation marks around quoted speeches, such as "I am a Christian" and "All of these groups are Christian".

Learn to use a comma.

Did you obtain this level of education at a Christian school?

Sweet wrote on Aug 12, 2008 11:24 AM:I was going to throw my comments into the mix here, but "To Alex" above stated it all, and much more eloquently than I would have. Thanks for your thoughtful and well-worded post.

David wrote on Aug 12, 2008 1:02 PM:It's quite simple and sad. "Anything but Jesus" is the motto for the UC system.

Karen wrote on Aug 12, 2008 3:03 PM:Of course colleges and universities should be able to set their own standards for entrance requirements. When I started at a university, I already had some credits from community college. These credits would have counted if I had gone to an in-state college, but the university I went to didn't accept them. Sure, I was dissapointed, but that's their call to make. I certainly never contemplated a lawsuit.

To those of you who think this is somehow discriminitory against Christians, wake up! Universities reject certain courses for admission requirements or transfer credits all the time, from all sorts of schools. This is nothing new. Christianity is still the majority religion in this country--please stop acting like you're the ones being persecuted.

Scott B wrote on Aug 12, 2008 8:11 PM:Here are the three reasons given in the article for which UC decided to reject the history class in question:

1. "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events"
2. "attributes historical events to divine providence rather than analyzing human action"
3. "contains inadequate treatment of several major ethnic groups, women and non-Christian religious groups"

I do not know if these are all the reasons that UC used, but not all of these are objective reasons. I will treat them in reverse order. The third claim is valid -- any history course should adequately treat all people groups within its scope, regardless of any specific religious perspective.

The second and third objections are potentially more biased. Both aspects of the curriculum are grounded in traditional Christian doctrine, which has fallen out of favor in the now largely secular academy, but which must not be discriminated against under constitutional law. A history course certainly must analyze human action, but to ultimately attribute the course of history to divine providence is a constitutionally-protected religious tenet. In this respect UC's statement is ambiguous -- is it a lack of analysis or the attribution to providence that is the problem? The first possibility is a valid curricular issue; the latter is discrimination.

The first statement, while seemingly extreme to secularists, is in fact the least objective problem cited by the UC review board. The textbook apparently claims that the Bible cannot be wrong in "analysis of historical events." The word "analysis" is key. Traditional Christian theology interprets history through a lens of history, but it is the interpretation that is religious, not the content itself. (Of course a postmodern rhetorical view of history would claim such a distinction is impossible, but since the Christian textbook is speaking outside a postmodern dialogue, that is irrelevant to the question.) To reject a course because it interprets history (i.e., asks the big "why?" and "how?" questions) from within a Christian ideological framework is religious discrimination.

P.S.: To those who would rather attack a writer's grammar and spelling than his ideas, I would like to point out that commenters writing from your perspective have hardly held a perfect record. I won't take the time to do so myself, but try turning your lens against the very first comment posted to this article. Ad hominem attacks only make the attacker look foolish. Also, for the record, I was educated in Christian day school from kindergarten to twelfth grade, and recently graduated from (gasp!) Bob Jones University, so I for one "did ... obtain this level of education at a Christian school." Do not stereotype.

DavidToo wrote on Aug 12, 2008 10:01 PM:David, you said, "It's quite simple and sad. "Anything but Jesus" is the motto for the UC system." If all the versions of Christianity, much less all the varieties of religion, were required study there would be no time for anything else. Which religions do you recommend we exclude?

DavidToo wrote on Aug 12, 2008 10:13 PM:Scott B, "it is the interpretation that is religious, not the content"? Are you actually suggesting that (1) the content of the bible is not religious in nature and (2) the bible is historically accurate? Yikes. Maybe you are just saying that the way CU teaches the bible is not religious. Hmm.

trinity wrote on Aug 12, 2008 11:28 PM:Scott B: "To reject a course because it interprets history (i.e., asks the big "why?" and "how?" questions) from within a Christian ideological framework is religious discrimination."

Would you acknowledge the same premise if you substituted the word 'Christian' for the word 'Hindu' or 'Muslim' in that sentence?

The issue is that UC has a set of standards that are bound to serve the public and to bend the rules in favor of a single religious ideology would, in fact be discriminatory. It is frustrating as a Christian to frequently be portrayed as one who cannot study 'secular' viewpoints while maintiaining a steadfast Christian belief. The UC system is one of the world's greatest university systems and Calvary should get on board with the proper requirements; or , of course, only assure their students can qualify for private schools such as Bob Jones. Perhaps the lawsuit is an exercise in advertizing someone's personal frustration at the expense of their students' education. Sure hope not.

Alex wrote on Aug 13, 2008 12:24 AM:To Free Thinker:

A college campus is akin to a marketplace of ideas. Today, faith-based instruction should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with free thought to feed minds that hunger for learning. On the contrary, faith based instruction is what has made America great. Absolute truth overwhelms our finite minds and causes us to extend beyond our selfish, self-centered lives. Consider the historical accomplishments achieved by men and women with moral conviction in the fields of science, medicine, education and finance. And it began with the proverbial ostrich pulling it's head out of the sand, looking at our perfect world and realizing this special place MUST have a special Creator. I doubt the Mona Lisa began to paint itslf millions of years ago, right?

Michael wrote on Aug 13, 2008 1:50 AM:The University wasn't "objective" in it's admissions standards...

1) "instructs that the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events"

What does that have to do with a general grasp of history overall in the course? Didn't the class learn about other history events World War 2, which is not in the Bible or is it just complaining that it views the Bible as accurate? Let's say the University's courses in history are non-dogmatic and should be critically looked upon and generally not believed, do you think that is acceptable concept?

Basically the University is telling a private school that we reject your beliefs in the Bible and want you to accept all the courses that we want you to believe.

Then the University talks about critical thinking...What about critical thinking in evolution? You know the University would reject such a concept, so they only believe in critical thinking when it's politically incorrect.

The ruling is a joke!

Scott B wrote on Aug 13, 2008 6:36 AM:DavidToo:

I was referring to the history course, not to the Bible. The content of the history course is not religious (i.e., how did George Washington die, when was the Taj Mahal built, where was Hammurabi's Code written?). The interpretation may be (i.e., how can we see God's working in history through those events?). That is the nature of Christian curricula.

As to your specific points, I do believe the Bible is both religious and historical. I take it you would disagree, but that is the nature of freedom of religion.

Scott B wrote on Aug 13, 2008 7:01 AM:trinity:

"Would you acknowledge the same premise if you substituted the word 'Christian' for the word 'Hindu' or 'Muslim' in that sentence?"

Absolutely! Religious freedom exists to protect all religions, not just Christianity. That was the argument of early American theologian Roger William's masterpiece, "The Bloudy Tenet Made Yet More Bloody" [1].

Christians can and should study "secular" viewpoints of history; however, that does not mean they need to accept or teach them as fact. The Calvary Chapel schools are not asking that UC "bend the rules" to make admission easier; they are asking them to prevent discrimination against unpopular religious ideology. In this case the unpopular ideology is conservative Christianity, but it could just as easily be Islam, Hinduism, paganism, or a Native American religion. Human rights exist to protect the minority from the majority [2]. Though the United States may be largely "Christian," conservative Christianity is a religious minority.

[1]...[2] http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/principles/majority.htm

freedom wrote on Aug 13, 2008 8:00 AM:In response to "wren" thanks for the english lesson??? And No I have never attended a christian school/college, but happen to know several "Excellent Teachers" who have. My college gpa has never been lower than a 3.6 and much like Calvary I have often "questioned" the information I have been given by instructors. Isnt that what "critical thinking" is really all about. Isnt that a "Choice" that we all have?

Alex wrote on Aug 13, 2008 1:04 PM:Being an Alex that's completely unrelated to the "Alex" in these comments, I'm ashamed of even sharing the same name. Seriously, Alex? You believe that "faith-based instruction should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with free thought to feed minds that hunger for learning?"

Well, I want my new radical idea, which says that "when 2 is added to 2, the answer is 3" to be taught to "minds that hunger for learning" alongside with regular math. Would you be alright with that?

Derek wrote on Aug 13, 2008 7:58 PM:This is a nice victory for good education and rationality.

Calvary Chapel Christian School can teach anything they want, but the rest of us aren't obligated to accept it. The University of California correctly recognized that the students weren't getting the foundation in science they needed to have to get along at the university level, thus UC is well within its rights to refuse those courses as prerequisites.

I can't believe the plaintiffs even thought they had a case here.

First name only. Comments including last names, contact addresses, e-mail addresses or phone numbers will be deleted. Attempts to misrepresent your identity or impersonate any person will not be approved. All comments are screened before they appear online, so please keep them brief. Comments reflect the views of those commenting and not necessarily those of the North County Times or its staff writers. Click here to view additional comment policies.

Submit Comment[-]

(optional)
   

Advertisement

Videos