A Southern California Christian high school sued the University of California (UC) in late August, accusing the ten-campus system of discriminating against the high school's students by not allowing certain courses taught from a Christian viewpoint to fulfill admission requirements.
Calvary Chapel Christian Schools (CCCS) in Murrieta claims that the university violated the students' First Amendment rights by rejecting the courses. The courses are "Christianity's Influence on American History," "Christianity and Morality in American Literature," and "Special Providence: American Government." Both the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI) accredit CCCS.
Bob Jones University and A Beka Books publish the textbooks used for the courses. UC has approved other classes that use these publishers' textbooks, the university said in a statement, but faculty reviewing the books said these don't meet UC guidelines.
"The question the university must confront in reviewing these texts is not whether they have religious content," the university said, "but whether they provide a comprehensive view of the relevant subject matter, reflecting knowledge generally accepted in the scientific and educational communities and with which a student at the university level should be conversant."
For example, the university said it rejected the literature course for using an anthology as the only required text.
"It's not that we're not allowing a particular viewpoint," UC spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina said. "We're saying that we require certain disciplines that in these cases are not there."
But the school's lawsuit also says that in 2004, UC rejected some biology and physics textbooks because they included a religious perspective. The suit cites this as evidence of past discrimination.
"We see [UC's action] as the door opening to broad ranges of viewpoint discrimination anytime a Christian viewpoint is sought on any topic," ACSI president Ken Smitherman said. "We see the potential for Christian school kids around the country to not attend the University of California."
CCCS superintendent Des Starr said about 55 percent of the school's graduates go on to four-year universities. The majority attends Biola, California Baptist, and Azusa Pacific universities. CCCS counselor May Agnell said about five to ten students apply to UC schools each year, and about three to five attend.
Other Christian schools have accommodated UC's requirements by adding different textbooks to courses with a distinct Christian perspective. But attorneys for the Calvary Chapel school predict that scrutiny of Christian curriculum will increase soon, and say that the university is threatening to begin reviewing courses they have already approved. Poorsina said UC technically could review existing courses, but focuses on courses with significant changes.
"This is an interactive process," Poorsina said. She added that she hopes CCCS will rewrite the course proposals and outlines to address UC's concerns. "We work with schools all the time to get courses resubmitted. This is not the end of the discussion."
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The Association of Christian Schools International has more information about its advocacy work, and a 4-page article (.PDF) on the lawsuit from its newsletter.
News elsewhere includes:
These Courses Are Condemned | "Christian Morality in American Literature" is biased. "Feminine Perspectives in Literature" is not. (Naomi Schaefer Riley, The Wall Street Journal, October 28, 2005)
Christian high schools to sue UC system | An association representing over 800 Christian high schools statewide is suing the University of California, accusing the admissions department of discriminating against schools that teach creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. (California Aggie, Sept. 01, 2005)
New Challenge to Evolution | A group of Christian schools sued the University of California in federal court last week, charging that it engages in religious discrimination by refusing to certify certain high school courses at religious schools as meeting the system's admissions requirements. (Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 29, 2005)
California Religious Schools Sue University Over Creationism | A group representing California religious schools has filed a lawsuit accusing the University of California system of discriminating against high schools that teach creationism and other conservative Christian viewpoints. (Associated Press, August 27, 2005)