The University of California system is being sued for alleged viewpoint and content discrimination against Christian school instruction and textbooks.
The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), which represents more than 800 schools worldwide, has filed a federal lawsuit challenging a University of California policy that bars students taught from a conservative Christian viewpoint from being admitted to schools in the UC system. The suit accuses the university system of violating the free-speech rights of Christian students.
Wendell Bird, an attorney for ACSI, says UC admissions officials have told Christian schools that several courses taught from a Christian perspective -- subjects such as English, science, history, and social studies -- no longer qualify for credit.
"The University of California, in reviewing courses, has objected to a 'biased' English text because it emphasizes Christian themes in great literature through the years," Bird explains, then lists other specific examples:
"It has objected to a science text that teaches the standard course content, and then teaches creation. It has objected to a history text that emphasizes the role of Christianity in history. It has objected to a social studies text that emphasizes the Christian heritage of America."
Bird believes the UC policy violates the free-speech and religious-freedom rights of Christian students and schools. "The precedent is that of freedom of speech and First Amendment rights. That's solidly where we stand," the attorney states.
"Different schools have the right, different teachers have the right to choose different perspectives to teach. That's a vital part of our freedom that's ensured by the First Amendment," Bird says. "Essentially every First Amendment decision of times past is a precedent in our favor. California's action is, to my knowledge, unprecedented."
But a spokeswoman for the UC system tells Associated Press that the university has a right to set course requirements. Ravi Poorsina explains that those requirements were established to "ensure that students who come here are fully prepared with broad knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed."
According to the lawsuit, a Christian school in Murrieta -- the Calvary Chapel Christian School -- was informed that its courses were rejected because they used textbooks printed by two Christian publishers: Bob Jones University Press in South Carolina and A Beka Books in Pensacola, Florida.
The Los Angeles Times reports that in letters to the school, university officials described some of the courses using those texts as being "too narrow" to be accepted -- and suggested the school "submit for UC approval a secular science curriculum with a text and course outline that addresses course content/knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community."
Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. -- president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky -- sees the UC system's actions as an "unprecedented form of discrimination" against Christian schools, parents, churches, and students.
"The university system would be within its rights to require a measurable knowledge of material in various disciplines, so long as it is required of all students," Mohler writes in his blog at AlbertMohler.com. "But it has no right to dictate a secular perspective for a school's curriculum."
Mohler says the lawsuit "demands a close watch" because its implications "reach far beyond California."
Association of Christian Schools International (www.acsi.org)
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (www.sbts.edu)
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