January 2006 Church & State | People & Events

A group of students at a California fundamentalist Christian high school is suing the University of California, alleging that the institution discriminates against them on the basis of what they are taught in class.

Six students at Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta say university admissions policies cut against them. Students who want to attend the University of California (UC) must complete a sequence of university-approved college prep courses. University officials have refused to certify several courses taught at Calvary Christian, which the students say might make it hard for them to get admitted to the UC system.

The controversy centers on one literature and two history courses offered at Calvary Christian, reported the Riverside Press Enterprise. UC officials charge that the textbooks used in the courses contradict “generally accepted” knowledge in the academic community.

The texts in question were published by Bob Jones University Press and a funda­mentalist publisher called ABeka Books. The Bob Jones book attacks evolution and tells students to “put the Word of God first and science second.” A Bob Jones history book labels Mormonism a “cult” and insists there were real witches in Salem at the time of the witch trials. The book also asserts that some events in U.S. history were the result of divine intervention.

UC officials say they have the right to set reasonable admissions standards.

“All the university is doing is setting standards for what students need to know when they get here,” said Christopher Patti, a UC attorney.

The students are being represented by the Association for Christian Schools International. Assisting with the case is attorney Wendell Bird, who argued unsuccessfully on behalf of creationism in Louisiana in 1987’s Edwards v. Aguillard case at the Supreme Court.

Ironically, none of the six has even applied yet to any of the 10 schools in the UC system, and many are not seniors. In addition, there is no objective evidence that the UC system discriminates against fundamentalist students. Statistics also show that more than 75 percent of Calvary students who have applied to UC schools have been admitted.