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Barry, there’s another troubling development in the education world – this one is not about stimulus funds for higher education facilities – this centers on high school curriculum and focuses directly on what’s being taught in many Christian high schools across the country. We just filed an amicus brief in Association of Christian Schools International v. Stearns, a case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that will likely have a wide-ranging impact on Christian high schools nationwide.
The case involves the University of California’s use of its admissions process to require religious high schools to change the religious perspectives of their courses in order for students at those schools to be eligible for standard admission to the numerous University of California (UC) and California State University institutions.
As our brief explains, “UC has repeatedly rejected courses from religious high schools solely or primarily due to the theological positions that are emphasized, claiming that the courses fail to adequately prepare students for study at UC. In many cases, the rejected courses include a wide variety of religious and non-religious perspectives and are geared toward developing students’ critical thinking skills and preparing them for college study, yet UC posits that the courses’ emphasis on a particular religious viewpoint or set of viewpoints renders them inadequate.”
Moreover, “UC has targeted courses that emphasize disfavored religious viewpoints, such as the idea that God has influenced human history and provides a universal, unchanging standard of truth and morality.”
One of the most egregious examples of UC’s discrimination against religious viewpoints is its rejection of San Diego Jewish Academy’s course entitled, “Shoah-Holocaust Studies.”
UC stated that the course must include “a different perspective and a broader viewpoint” and must also cover other human tragedies in order to be worthy of study. New Community Jewish High School’s Holocaust and Human Behavior course was also rejected because, in UC’s view, the perspectives for the course had to be expanded.
By contrast, UC approves of specialized non-religious History and Social Science courses that emphasize a particular culture such as Chinese civilization or that study historical events from an African-American, Women’s, or Latin-American perspective.
UC has rejected a host of other religious school courses that provide students with critical thinking skills and a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter such as Jewish Leadership, Jewish Philosophy, Women in Scripture, Moral Theology, Moral Philosophy, Social Justice, Ethics and Values, Women’s Studies, History of Christianity, and Catholic Traditions. UC’s objection is to the religious perspectives that are emphasized in these courses.
Our brief argues that “UC’s exacting scrutiny of the theological viewpoints of religious high school courses furthers no legitimate, much less compelling, educational purpose. Applicants’ religious worldviews bear no relationship to their likelihood of succeeding at UC. A reasonable observer would conclude that the primary effect of UC’s policy and practice is to display hostility toward religion in general and certain religious perspectives in particular. As such, UC has violated the Establishment Clause.”
We were joined in our brief by the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Common Good Foundation, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council.
You can read our friend-of-the-court brief here.
Barry, the outcome of this case is critically important to religious high schools and high school students across the country. If UC is permitted to reject courses taught from a Christian perspective, numerous other public university systems across the nation could adopt similar policies.
This would make it much more difficult for many students at Christian and other religious high schools to gain admission to public universities and would force schools to consider changing their curriculum.