Dispatches from the Creation Wars

One of the most fascinating things about the lawsuit against the UC is that they appear to have pulled the legal arguments out of thin air. For instance, the ACSI states in their newsletter:

ACSI seeks to preserve the right of Christian school graduates to attend the college or university of their choice.

I can’t imagine what makes them think that anyone, Christian or otherwise, has a right to attend the college or university of their choice. When I was turned down as a transfer student to the University of Chicago, I wasn’t happy about it, but I certainly didn’t think my rights had been violated. Students are turned down by the university of their choice all the time. That is at worst a minor inconvenience; it has nothing to do with rights.

The complaint filed by the ACSI contains a list of alleged constitutional issues, most of them either non-existent or not violated by the UC policy. Here is the first paragraph of the complaint, laying out the legal bases for the suit:

Plaintiffs state this complaint against defendants, for viewpoint discrimination and content discrimination by defendants toward Christian school instruction and texts, which violates the constitutional rights of Christian schools and students to freedom of speech, freedom from viewpoint discrimination, freedom of religion and association, freedom from arbitrary governmental discretion, equal protection of the laws, and freedom from hostility toward religion.

How many red herrings does this paragraph contain? Let us count them.

A. The notion of “content discrimination” is absurd in this context. Any and all university standards for giving credit are “content discrimination” – they all discriminate based upon the content of the course they are evaluating. That is not illegal. The only way to make a case against this is to make a case against any and all attempts by a university to evaluate which courses to accept for credit. By that standard, a school could have a class that consists of nothing but the reading of Harlequin romances, call it biology, and if the university refuses to accept that as a credit in biology they are engaged in “content discrimination”. Obviously absurd.

B. The claim of a free speech violation is even more absurd. The UC policy does not prevent anyone from speaking on any subject whatsoever. They are free to say or write whatever they want. The freedom to do so does not mean that others have to accept anything you say or write as evidence of pedagogical value.

C. The same is true of “freedom of religion and association”. No one is being prevented from practicing their religion, or from associating with anyone they wish. The right to freedom of religion does not mean that others have to accept your religion as being adequate as a science course.

The only relevant legal question in this case will be whether the action taken here is arbitrary or reasonable. If the court determines that the criteria as applied here are reasonable and aimed at the entirely legitimate university function of evaluating the preparation of potential students, the university wins. All of these claims of imagined rights being violated will not matter a bit.

Comments

  1. #1 spyder
    August 31, 2005

    Not knowing at all what they intend to mean by the phrases: “viewpoint discrimination… arbitrary governmental discretion… (and) hostility toward religion,” it certainly sounds like i want some of those freedoms. Oh wait, i do don’t i? Unless they are referring to desiring the government to take action to stop people from saying things like: “what you lookin at?” and “christo fascism.”

    I would of course greatly enjoy less Patriot Act enforcement legislation, thus freeing me from overbearing arbitrary governmental discretion; but i seriously doubt the ACSI are willing to go to the mat for me to protect my cognitive liberties in my propensity for the ritual use of entheogens for example. I suspect they too have their own desires to enforce their version of arbitrary governmental discretion.

  2. #2 Dan
    August 31, 2005

    I also noticed the ACSI’s invocation of the student’s supposed right to attend the college of his or her choice. My thoughts on it are here.

  3. #3 raj
    August 31, 2005

    When I started at Ohio State Univ in 1967, I was told that anyone who graduated from an accredited high school in Ohio could enroll at the univ. By the end of the first quarter (they were on the quarter system) a substantial portion of them were gone.

    The process was rather upsetting, since more than a few of those who “were gone” had become close friends.

    Regarding the subject matter of the post

    ACSI seeks to preserve the right of Christian school graduates to attend the college or university of their choice.

    they might have the right to enroll at the college or univ of their choice. But that doesn’t mean that they have the right to stay there. Given the fact that there are limited state resources, it strikes me that the resources should be devoted to people who are more likely to graduate.

  4. #4 roger Tang
    August 31, 2005

    “ACSI seeks to preserve the right of Christian school graduates to attend the college or university of their choice.”

    Yeah, that was an incredibly stoopid(tm) statement. COuldn’t they have a stronger argument?

  5. #5 Enarque
    September 1, 2005

    I simply can’t pass up the urge to comment on this case (this is my first time, by the way). I agree that the UC should have the right to decide if a particular curriculum meets or does not meet its standards. I went to a small, Christian high school in California (I graduated in 1998), and I can assure any doubters that the ASCI-recommended science curriculum is scientifically bankrupt. Don’t even get me started on the health curriculum.

    Nevertheless, I did very well on my standardized tests, and I was a foreign exchange student to Belgium under the Rotary Youth Exchange so I felt confident that I would get into a UC school even if the more selective ones were still out of my reach. Then came the rejection letters. Like Ed (and thousands of high school seniors around the country), I was upset that I did not get into my choice schools. But it was strange that I didn’t get into ANY schools. It wasn’t until UC Davis sent me a separate letter explaining that there was an error in my application that I became suspicious. It turns out that the UC systematically rejected my application because they didn’t even know my school existed.

    So I screamed at my former guidance counselor over the phone (I was still in Belgium during this fiasco) to fix this mess. My high school should have been registered. I recognize that my situation was entirely the fault of my high school, but I’m still pissed off at the UC system (except UC Davis). I know that every rejected student feels entitled to an explanation, but I was entitled to at least a phone call to inform me that my school apparently does not exist. This was not a standard rejection. And if UC Davis could take the time to send me a letter, why couldn’t the others? But don’t chalk this up to misdirected anger. I was angry with UC for its apathy, but I was livid at my high school for its incompetence.

    Epilogue: my apologetic high school honored my request to withhold my diploma another year so I could reapply as a freshman. They took care of the UC paperwork and I reapplied to the same UC campuses and to the University of Washington using the same application information I had used the previous year. I got into most of my UC choices (except Berkeley and UCLA) and I got into the UW. I enrolled at the UW and graduated Cum Laude with a double BA in finance and French. The ACSI and the UC can both bite me.