On Friday, Judge James Otero of the Central District of California issued a ruling granting the University of California’s request for partial summary judgment in the California Creationist Lawsuit. I’ve written about this case several times before now, but it’s been a long time since the last update, so before I get into the details of the ruling, I’m going to quickly review the details of the case.
In 2005, a group of plaintiffs that includes the Association of Christian Schools International, Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murietta, and the parents of several students filed a lawsuit against the University of California. In their suit, they claimed that UC unfairly and unconstitutionally refused to accept a number of courses taught at Christian schools as meeting UC’s admissions criteria. The courses in question covered a range of topics, including English, history, religion, and government, but I’ve mostly focused my attention on the biology courses that failed to make the grade, because that’s the area that I know the most about.
One of the specific issues that the Christian Schools are challenging in their lawsuit is UC’s decision to reject any course that uses either the A Bekka Books or the Bob Jones University Press biology textbooks as the primary text for the course. As I’ve said before, this decision makes perfect sense to me. Even the most cursory look at some of the things that these books claim is enough to show that the unfortunate students who are forced to use this text are being taught things that are totally incompatible with science. The Christian schools, it should go without saying, disagree with my assessment.
In their pursuit of their claim that it’s unreasonable to reject these books, they recruited noted cDesign Proponentsist Michael Behe as an “expert” witness. He “reviewed” the Creationist books, found them to be fine and dandy, submitted an expert report that said as much, and sat for a deposition last year. (Unfortunately for his employers, the Judge apparently actually listened to what Behe had to say. I’ll have more on that in another post later today.)
Last year, both sides in the case asked the Judge to grant them summary judgment. The Christian schools asked the judge to rule that the entire UC policy of rejecting certain courses is unconstitutional both on its face and as it was applied specifically to them. The University of California asked the court to rule that the policy is constitutional on its face. UC did not ask the court to grant judgment on the issue of the specific courses, saying that issue involves questions best settled at trial. In order for the court to grant summary judgment, it has to agree that there are no material differences about the facts of the case, and that the party who is asking for the summary judgment is clearly in the right even if the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the other side.
In his decision, Judge Otero rejected every single aspect of the plaintiffs’ claim, along with their entire motion for summary judgment. He accepted the University of California’s arguments, and granted their motion for partial summary judgment.
This means two things: first, the question of whether or not the University of California can reject courses from the Christian schools under any circumstances has been settled in favor of UC. The judge ruled that UC has a compelling reason to pick and choose the “content” and “viewpoints” that they will accept as meeting their admissions requirements: ensuring that the students they accept are qualified. The Christian schools who filed the suit are not entitled to an exemption from that requirement simply because they are religious extremists who fiercely reject reality as part of their faith. Second, the issue of whether or not UC was correct in rejecting the specific courses and textbooks in question will most likely go to trial. The Christian schools asked the judge to rule in their favor on that issue, while UC claimed that the issue involved enough of a dispute about the facts to require a full trial. Here, too, the judge ruled in favor of UC.
A trial date has not yet been set, but I’ll keep watching for one and will let you know what’s going on when more information is available.
I’ll also have two more posts on this ruling a little later today. One of the posts will focus on Judge Otero’s discovery of various typical Creationist argument techniques (most notably strawmen and quote mining) in the Christian School’s claims. The second will focus on the valuable, but accidental, contribution made by Mike Behe – on behalf of the side of good science.