Monday, December 19, 2005

UC system being sued for discrimination

... and deservedly so I think. It's not about the UCSD porn or the ungodly pay structure for officials. This is a very interesting case where a local Christian school is suing the Univeristy of California system for discriminating against Christian classes as far as their courses meeting UC course requirements.

[LA Times] In a case said by both sides to be the first of its kind, Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta and a group representing 4,000 Christian schools nationwide filed suit against UC this summer, accusing the university of discriminating against them by setting admissions rules that violate their rights to freedom of speech and religion.

The university denies the claims, saying schools are free to teach material they wish but that UC must be able to reject high school courses that offer more religious than academic content or that do not meet its standards. For this school year, UC refused to give Calvary students admission credit for an English class, Christianity and Morality in American Literature, and a history course, Christianity's Influence in America.

[...]"What business is it of the state to say what viewpoints are acceptable and which are not?" asked Wendell R. Bird, an Atlanta attorney who represents the Christian schools association, which has about 800 member schools in California and 4,000 nationally.

The university, he noted, has approved courses from other schools on Buddhism, Islam, Jewish history and the effects of feminism and counterculture on literature but turned down Calvary's submissions in history and literature, as well as a government class titled Special Providence: Christianity and the American Republic.

I'm certainly no lawyer, but I'm definitely going to be looking around for the legal bloggers opinions because it sounds like they've got a pretty good case based on the information in the article.

Having gone from a Jesuit high school to UC San Diego, I didn't feel my religion or religious classes were discriminated against in the way that Calvary is claiming. My high school actually didn't offer those combo religion/literature or religion/history classes though religion classes were required all four years. I do recall while applying to the UC schools that the way they calculated GPA did not pay much heed to religious classes, but that was 10 years ago, and as I was looking for and taking all the science classes I could, lit and history weren't high on my list of classes to take.

The classes mentioned in the article sound like fascinating classes: "Christianity and Morality in American Literature, and a history course, Christianity's Influence in America." And do to the bread of opinions and topics that could be discussed in those classes, I think they offer more and would challenge the students more than your typical college feminism course or (the topic the fetching Mrs. Wookie's mother was trying to get a PhD in) chicano studies program. Again I never took those type of courses, but from what I saw from other students, they didn't seem to taxing.

Good luck Calvary. I'm going to watch this case to see what happens.

UPDATE: The case is also discussed in the Economist.

In theory, the UC case stops at California's borders: no other state's public universities interfere so much in the high-school system, so their “secular intolerance”, real or imagined, is less potent. In practice, whatever happens in the current case, more such conflicts will follow.

For instance, when home-schooled children or students from private Christian schools apply to a public university, they are typically judged by their examination scores—and, typically, they are required to perform much better than their counterparts from the public schools. By the reckoning of the Calvary Chapel plaintiffs, a student from a Christian school in California needs to score within the top 2-4%, whereas a public-school teenager with good course-work could meet the required score almost by guesswork.