Court upholds University of California ban of religious-based courses

MURRIETA, Calif. — Calvary Chapel Christian School will ask the full U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals panel to reconsider the Jan. 12 decision by three of its justices that the University of California can reject courses taught at Christian high schools.

"They are trying to secularize private, Christian schools," said attorney Robert Tyler, chief counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which is representing the Murrieta school that serves children from preschool through 12th grade, and the Association of Christian Schools International.

The suit was filed in August 2005 after the Christian school submitted a proposed course to the UC system for review as required by university policy. In the review—required by all private schools—UC determines which courses are acceptable for admission into its public campuses.

UC officials rejected the Calvary science curriculum, Tyler said, because it included discussions on creation. Tyler said the policy, which he calls "viewpoint discrimination," violates the constitution.

"It (UC) holds the key and says in order for us to open the doors for your students your curriculum must be pre-approved in advance, and if you are from a private Christian school you must teach from a secular perspective," he said.

"What UC is doing is regulating the private, religious speech of private, religious schools. They are doing so even though the science classes in many private Christian schools will teach evolution alongside creation and intelligent design. There were Christian students getting to UC campuses that were far more prepared to argue the origins of life."

Tyler said he believed the university system would potentially have more legal standing if the Christian high schools refused to teach anything but creation.

"But they were providing a broad education in teaching all of these subjects," the attorney said. "It is the government regulating viewpoint speech.

The UC policy includes not only science courses, but other required course such as history, English and math.

"They are saying if you teach from a Christian perspective, we will not approve those courses."

In presenting its case before the court, Tyler said, the university argued for its own right to speech and that "it has the right to say what it chooses to say."

Tyler disagrees.

"It defies common sense when it's a public school doing the teaching," Tyler argued.

In its decision, the court upheld a lower district court ruling supporting UC's review policy.

"The district court correctly determined that UC's rejections of the Calvary courses were reasonable and did not constitute viewpoint discrimination," the 9th U.S. ruling read.

The court also added that the university's policy and "its individual course decisions are not based on religion, but on whether a high school course is college preparatory," the opinion said.

If the 9th Circuit court denies Tyler's request for the full-panel review, called an en banc panel, he vows to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the meantime, he said parents should not be afraid to enroll their children at the Murrieta campus because the current curriculum has been accepted by UC officials. The material rejected by the university was proposed coursework that has never been used by the high school, Tyler added.

"This is an example of what could be the beginning of the Christian underground in America," he said. "They will have to hide the fact that they are teaching from a Christian perspective."

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