Arguments were heard today in a federal district court case to determine whether a state university system can dictate that private Christian schools in the state teach their college prep courses from exclusively secular, Bible- and God-free textbooks.
As WND reported earlier, the University of California system adopted a policy last year that basic science, history, and literature textbooks by major Christian book publishers wouldn’t qualify for core admissions requirements because of the inclusion of Christian perspectives.
Robert Tyler, who is representing Calvary Chapel Christian School and five students in the case against the University of California, told WND that the university’s discriminatory policy creates an ultimatum for Christian schools. “If you want courses to be approved in private education, so your students are qualified to attend (UC) institutions, you must teach from a secular point of view,” he said.
“Christian schools will have to decide: teach from a Christian worldview and eliminate your student’s ability to attend a UC school, or teach from a secular worldview, so that the kids can enter the UC school system,” he explained.
“Essentially what’s happening is the UC has to pre-approve courses taught in high school,” Tyler said. “It’s pretty shocking, because in depositions UC reps made it clear: whether it be English, history or science, the addition of a religious viewpoint makes it unacceptable.”
Tyler also told WND that though a decision from Federal District Court Judge Otero is expected in the next two to three weeks, he fully expects the case to be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and perhaps even the U.S. Supreme Court, since both sides are firmly entrenched and likely to appeal if Otero decides against them.
“We believe that UC’s discrimination is clearly unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment, because UC is attempting to secularize Christian schools,” Tyler said.
“The UC is intent upon defending some ‘right’ to discriminate unlawfully,” he said. “They seem steadfast that students will not be adequately prepared for college because a Christian worldview was added to their curriculum.
“We won’t accept that, and we’re resolved to take this to higher court if necessary.”
Under the admissions guidelines to University of California colleges, in-state students must either score in the top two to three percent on standardized tests or complete a core curriculum of approved preparatory classes (called “a-g” classes) to be deemed eligible for entrance into the state university system.
According to the lawsuit, more than 90 percent of UC students achieved eligibility by completing an approved a-g curriculum.
Under the disputed policy, however, a-g classes based on books that mention God or the Bible don’t count, effectively making a secular education a prerequisite for admission.
After reviewing textbooks from major Christian publishers Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book, UC officials deemed them insufficient, specifically because the books supplemented the basic material with a Christian perspective.
Burt Carney, an executive with the Association of Christian Schools International, said he’s met with officials for the university system, and was told that there was no problem with the actual facts in a BJU physics textbook that was disallowed.
In fact, an ACSI report said, UC officials confirmed “that if the Scripture verses that begin each chapter were removed the textbook would likely be approved …”
“Here’s the very university that talks about academic freedom,” Carney said. “It’s very discriminating. They don’t rule against Muslim or Hindu or Jewish (themes) or so forth, only those with a definite Christian theme.”
According to the lawsuit, a variety of textbooks with supplemental perspectives were accepted – just not those with a Christian perspective.
For example, “Western Civilization: The Jewish Experience” and “Issues in African History” were accepted, but “Christianity’s Influence on American History” was rejected. “Feminine Roles in Literature,” “Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in Literature” and “Literature of Dissent” were accepted, but “Christianity and Morality in American Literature” was not.
Most strikingly, “Intro to Buddhism,” “Introduction to Jewish Thought,” “Women’s Studies & Feminism” and “Raza Studies” were deemed acceptable electives, but “Special Providence: American Government” was unacceptable, both as a civics and elective course.
“In other words, (UC schools) routinely approve courses which add viewpoints such as non-Christian religion, feminism, an ethnic preference, a political viewpoint, or multiculturalism, or that focus on religions such as Buddhism or Judaism, (and plaintiffs believe they should evenhandedly approve such courses), but disapprove courses which add viewpoints based on conservative Christianity,” the court filings said.
The official court documents also charge, “Methodically and ominously, (UC schools) have assumed increasingly more authority over secondary schools in California by expanding the reach and impact of requirements for students in nonpublic secondary schools to be eligible for admission to the University of California (and effectively also to the California State University system). Even without authority for and guidance in doing so, (UC schools) press onward from deciding admission guidelines to determining what viewpoints may and may not be taught in secondary school classrooms, which books may and may not be used, and what students with the same tests scores are and are not eligible for admission to the University of California.”
The ACSI, with the help of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a non-profit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts, contends the university system’s discrimination is unconstitutional on several grounds, including an unlawful intrusion and entanglement of the government in the church.
The court documents state, “Entanglement with religion results from (UC schools) and the state parsing through the viewpoints and content of Christian school instruction and texts to ferret out disapproved religious views, and intruding into the content of religious schools and texts, and doing that when there is no deficiency at all reflected in their scores or grades.”
“Every teacher teaches from a point of view,” Tyler told WND. “We all have a worldview, and if you teach from secular perspective, it’s a viewpoint.
“Our argument is that the government has to be neutral when it comes to viewpoint.”