Tuesday, January 03, 2006

UC Schools: Denying Freedom of Speech? Or Upholding Academic Standards?

Currently there is a lawsuit before a Los Angeles federal judge against the University of California system, claiming that UC is denying freedom of speech. The plaintiff is Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta which, along with a group representing 4,000 Christian schools nationwide, claims that the UC policy of requiring class textbooks to live up to certain standards before the class can be allowed for admissions violates freedom of speech and religion.

Calvary feels that UC is dictating what should be taught in a school which uses a Christian conservative perspective to instruct its students, whereas UC has stated that the school can teach its students whatever it likes, but certain academic standards must be upheld for admissions into the UC system. Some of the reasons for rejecting courses for admissions? They are not considered academically rigorous enough, because the schools provide too little information, they are deemed biased or are too narrowly focused. The rejected classes easily fall under the "narrowly focused" category. To wit:
Suppose you're learning about Thomas Jefferson in high school. You might be told he wrote the Declaration of Independence, approved the Louisiana Purchase or funded the Lewis & Clark expedition.

If you're reading from "United States History for Christian Schools" (Bob Jones University, 2001), you'd also get the idea that he was a liar and anti-Christ.

"American believers can appreciate Jefferson's rich contribution to the development of their nation, but they must beware of his view of Christ as a good teacher but not the incarnate son of God," the text reads.

"As the Apostle John said, 'Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist.'"
UC has actually approved the majority of the courses submitted by Calvary and past Calvary students have had no problem entering the UC system. So it seems that Calvary's current contention is nothing more than, "We want everything to go our way, damnit!"

The lead attorney for the schools - Wendell Bird - says that he would bring the same suit regardless if the religion in question were Jewish or Buddhist, but his history shows that he has a special place in his heart for trying to force conservative Christian dogma, especially creationism, to be taught in schools. As a law student, he wrote a 1978 Yale Law Journal article, "Freedom of Religion and Science Instruction in Public Schools", in which he laid out a strategy to use courts in compelling creationism to be taught in schools. He has argued the losing side in the Edwards vs. Aguillard Supreme Court case (1987), in which he sought to give creationism equal class time in Louisiana schools. And he is the staff attorney for The Institute of Creation Research, an organization whose home page says:
We believe God has raised up ICR to spearhead Biblical Christianity's defense against the godless and compromising dogma of evolutionary humanism. Only by showing the scientific bankruptcy of evolution, while exalting Christ and the Bible, will Christians be successful in "the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."(II Corinthians 10:4,5)
I have to agree with the University of California here. Religious schools are free to teach whatever they like. But that is no reason to lower academic standards and approve classes for admissions which will not equip the student with the tools to succeed in the secular world. If the student wishes to live in a conservative Christian cocoon, s/he would do well to learn that that cocoon will not be provided by an institution of higher learning.

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