Dispatches from the Creation Wars

UC Lawsuit Update

I’ve been scooped by my buddy Wes Elsberry, who has this post on Tuesday’s hearings on the motion to dismiss in the ACSI’s lawsuit against the University of California system. To refresh your memory, a group of Christian schools are suing the UC because they will not accept credit for certain specific courses those schools offer, courses that they say do not meet the minimum requirements for academic rigor to be considered core curriculum courses. I’ve been following this suit closely since it began. So yesterday the judge heard oral arguments on the UC’s motion to dismiss the case.

The judge has not ruled yet. I’m not sure what’s taking so long, the briefs on both sides on that motion to dismiss were filed nearly 6 months ago and he initially indicated that he would rule on it without oral argument. He did indicate yesterday, apparently, that he’s going to allow the case to go forward:

A federal judge said Tuesday he was not inclined to dismiss a lawsuit filed by six students at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta alleging religious discrimination by the University of California.


I do not expect this case to be dismissed, simply because the legal issue is novel enough that there is no precise precedent for the judge to rely on for such a dismissal. When the judge issues an actual ruling, I should be able to get a copy of it from one of the UC attorneys, who has been kind enough to send me the briefs in the case previously. As I read the briefs, and unfortunately without having actually seen any of the textbooks in question other than the biology one (which is unbelievably bad), I think there may well be a split decision coming.

If the contents of the literature and English books are as described, the UC will have a tougher argument to make for keeping them out than in keeping out the biology book. The biology book explicitly rejects almost all of modern science and bluntly says that anything in science that appears to conflict with a literal interpretation of the Bible is false and must be rejected. Surely it’s within the legitimate authority of a university not to accept an explicitly anti-science course as a credit in science.

So we may be looking at a split decision, where the court accepts the university’s authority to make such admissions criteria, but finds the specific rejection of the English classes to be discriminatory. Mind you, that’s based only on the description of those books from the ACSI’s briefs, which may well be totally wrong. The only one I’ve seen is the biology book and that one makes the issue very clear cut. The others may not be so clear cut.

Interestingly, the attorney representing the ACSI is none other than Wendell Bird, the man whose model legislation was the basis of the Arkansas and Louisiana creationism acts that were struck down, respectively, in McLean and Edwards (and who argued the Edwards case before the Supreme Court). He was a Bork protege at Yale back in the early 70s as well.

Comments

  1. #1 kehrsam
    June 28, 2006

    I have to agree, albeit I’ve only seen descriptions of the briefs and books involved.

    Among other things, it is not clear that this is even a freedom of religion issue, although the briefs seem to imply that both parties accept this interpretation. Under Lemon, a facially neutral regulation is not a per se violation so long as there is no undue discrimination (and the UC brief does appear to make this argument based on the summary I’ve read; it’s at the heart of their motion for SJ). So it is possible the judge could rule that the statutes and regulations involved had a rational relationship to the ends sought and throw out the whole thing. I don’t expect that to happen.

    Dover is not authority here, but I would be surprized if the decision did not track it fairly closely. A science course that rejects the scientific method when it proves inconvenient is not much of a science course, under any interpretation. I can barely imagine a judge approving it because the bulk of the text is non-controversial topics, but missing the foundations of biology and geology and a good bit of physics seems awfully unscientific.

    As for the english and literature, while the books may contain the odd nutty remark, I have to believe the actual material taught is probably superior to the pabulum found in most commercial textbooks. My sister home-schooled for several years (using a non-religious curriculum) and in general, the texts were far more advanced than the comparable grade levels at public schools.

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