Attorneys representing the Catholic League and Ignatius Press have filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit alleging that the California public university system has refused credit for classes that are taught from a religious perspective. The university has defended its standards’ neutrality, contending that the refused courses were sub par.
The brief, filed by the California-based Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), alleges government censorship of faith-based high school curricula and discrimination against religious students. The university system’s policy would in effect prevent private Catholic and other religious high schools from teaching courses according to their religious traditions, PJI attorneys claim.
In August 2005 the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, California, and six Calvary Chapel students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. The students challenged the university’s refusal of credit for several of their classes, a refusal which required them to take remedial classes.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the university in the case, which is named ACSI v. Stearns.
"The ACSI decision represents yet another appalling case where the Ninth Circuit has approved blatant government discrimination against religious students," charged Brad Dacus, PJI president. "We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will accept review of this case in order to restore the basic rights of Christian, Catholic, and Jewish high schools to teach their religious values without hindrance,"
For its part, the University of California argued that its standards are neutral and are intended to ensure that incoming students are “conversant with substantive content and methods of inquiry at the level required for UC students.”
In a backgrounder at its website, the University of California said it approved 43 courses at Calvary Chapel as college prep courses. Certain courses were not approved for “a number of reasons.”
A literature course was rejected because it used an anthology as its only common assigned reading, violating the university system’s requirement that students read at least some assigned works in their entirety as part of classroom instruction.
Other rejected courses used textbooks that the university system thought did not meet standards because “their substantive content or teaching of skills was insufficient for a college preparatory course.”
Some rejected classes relied on textbooks from Christian publishers such as Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, according to USA Today.
“The question the University addresses in reviewing these texts is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide adequate instruction in 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,” the university’s backgrounder stated.
Textbooks and courses are evaluated according to whether their use promotes “the type of analytic and critical thinking skills necessary for success at the University of California,” it added.