Two students expelled allegedly for being lesbians have filed a lawsuit against a Christian high school.
The complaint claims the California Lutheran High School Association – which oversees operation of a high school in Wildomar, Calif. – engaged in discrimination, invasion of privacy and unfair business practices in its handling and ultimate dismissal of two juniors, who are not named to protect their privacy, the North County Times in Southern California reported.
The students were called into the office of Principal Gregory Bork Sept. 7, the lawsuit claims, where Bork “individually and separately interrogated the (students) in a closed room, without the parents’ knowledge or consent … and asked (them) inappropriate and personal questions such as whether they loved one another and were lesbians.”
“In such a manner, Bork coerced one of the (students) to admit that she ‘loves’ the other,” a court document states.
The next day, the parents received a phone call from Bork informing them the board had decided to expel the students. One day later, the parents confronted the principal in person and by phone and were told the two girls could not remain at school “with those feelings.”
Bork wrote a letter Sept. 15 to the parents stating “while there is no open physical contact between the two girls, there is still a bond of intimacy … characteristic of a lesbian (relationship). … Such a relationship is unchristian. To allow the girls to attend (Cal Lutheran) … would send a message to students and parents that we either condone this situation and/or will not do anything about it. That message would not reflect our beliefs and principles.”
The complaint calls on the courts to prevent the school from expelling other students based on its perception of their sexual orientation and asks for punitive damages in excess of $25,000, the Times reported.
State Attorney General Bill Lockyer called the lawsuit groundbreaking.
“This is an unsettled area of the law,” Nathan Barankin, communications director for the attorney general, told the Times. “The public policy issues are religious freedom versus the right not to be discriminated against.”
But the students’ attorney, Christopher Hayes, said he doesn’t believe it is literally new legal ground.
“We believe that California law is clear,” he said. “The California Unruh Civil Rights Act … prohibits businesses from discriminating against people for various reasons.”
The Unruh law requires “full and equal accommodations in all business establishments,” including with regard to sexual orientation.
Hayes argues the school is not a church, but a fee-taking institution.
“They accept non-Christians and … they accept Jews, who as a fundamental doctrine of their religion do not accept Jesus Christ,” he argued. “What can be more antithetical to Christianity than Judaism? California law says you cannot pick and choose who you discriminate against.”
Tom Scott, vice president of operations for the Association of Christian Schools International, however, pointed out private schools don’t operate under public schools’ standards.
He told the Times the situation is similar to public schools expelling students for drug use or violence. Public and private schools, he explained, can expel a student who engages in a destructive lifestyle.
Guadalupe Benitez filed suit against two San Diego physicians, claiming discrimination. The doctors said they could not perform the artificial insemination procedure, called intrauterine insemination, on unmarried women for reasons of conscience but referred the woman to a fertility specialist.
The California Court of Appeal, 4th Appellate District, Division 1, ruled the doctors “are entitled to present evidence that their religious beliefs prohibited them from performing IUI on any unmarried woman, regardless of the woman’s sexual orientation … .”
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