Christian schools lose appeal bid in UC case–18 Oct 10

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer

San Francisco Chronicle October 13, 2010The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Tuesday from Christian schools that want the University of California to grant college-prep credit for courses with religious viewpoints – using textbooks, UC says, that replace science with the Bible.

The justices, without comment, denied a hearing to the Association of Christian Schools International, which accused the university of violating freedom of speech and religion with its policy on the classes applicants take in high school.

UC requires certain high school courses for admission and says it reviews their content to make sure they cover subjects that incoming students need. University officials said some of the Christian schools’ classes in biology, history, English and religion didn’t pass the test – a conclusion that the schools blamed on discrimination.

The association’s 800 high schools in California teach “standard course content” and “add a religious viewpoint in each subject … as an integral part of their reason for existence,” the group’s lawyers said in their Supreme Court appeal.

But a federal judge said experts testifying for the university refuted those claims in reviewing textbooks.

Biology texts, one professor concluded, teach students to reject any scientific evidence that contradicted the Bible. A history text declared the Bible to be the “unerring source for analysis” of past events, in the view of another expert, and gave short shrift to women, non-Christians and some ethnic groups.

Another UC evaluator said an English literature course did not require students to read novels or plays, but instead presented an anthology, “Classics for Christians,” that “insists on specific interpretations” of excerpted works.

Those and similar assessments showed that the university had rational grounds for denying college preparatory credit for the courses, U.S. District Judge James Otero said in a 2008 ruling.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld his decision in January. A three-judge panel said the evidence showed that UC has approved other high school courses with “religious content and viewpoints,” and classes that used religious textbooks, as long as they met academic standards.

UC officials praised the court decisions and said the university has similar rates of approval for courses in religious and secular schools. Lawyers for the Christian school association denounced the ruling in their Supreme Court appeal.

“In the Ninth Circuit,” they said, “religious speech in religious schools is less protected than commercial speech, flag burning and pornography.”

The case is Association of Christian Schools International vs. Stearns, 09-1461.

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