A coalition of Christian schools is suing the University of California for allegedly discriminating against several high school students in the UC admissions process.
The lawsuit alleges the UC wrongly bars high school courses that use textbooks written from a Christian perspective from its list of accepted classes for UC admission, said Jonathan McCants, the union’s lawyer. The Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), ACSI member school Calvary Chapel Christian School (CCCS) and five students from CCCS filed the suit, for which a court date has yet to be set.
“We believe it is a clear violation of the first amendment when the UC refuses to approve courses just because they are taught from a conservative viewpoint,” McCants said. “They flat out rejected the courses … and made no attempts to work with [CCCS].”
ACSI represents over 800 Christian schools in California and 4,000 Christian schools nationwide, according to a press release. ACSI and CCCS have had a few courses rejected in the past, McCants said, but decided to sue the UC now because the course rejections have been happening more frequently.
“After the rejection of three more courses by the UC, it was apparent this was wide-reaching,” McCants said. “It’s a pretty broad discrimination.”
In order for a student to be UC eligible, the student must take courses that satisfy the UC’s “A-G” requirements. These requirements include courses that cover subjects such as history and social science, English, math, science, foreign language and art.
McCants said the UC was not only rejecting science courses in which Creationism was a focus, but history and literature courses, as well, because they were taught from a Christian viewpoint.
“In this issue, it’s not about science courses at all,” McCants said. “In one example, the course that was rejected was a social science course. The class was called ‘Christianity’s Influence on America.’ It used a college textbook and a Christian textbook.”
UC spokeswoman Ravi Poorsina said the CCCS courses were not rejected because they were taught through a religious perspective, but because they did not adequately prepare students for a UC education.
“We want students to be prepared for our coursework,” Poorsina said. “We do not object to having religion taught … [However], courses that have not taught specific concepts needed for UC classes are unacceptable.”
However, McCants said he believed the course would not have been rejected if the school had only used the college textbook. He said the UC disregarded whether or not students had learned basic concepts to succeed in a UC school, including the theories of evolution and natural selection, which are taught alongside the Creationist perspective.
“It is their belief that the students are not adequately informed about necessary concepts,” McCants said. “Regardless of how well students are prepared, if you are taught from one perspective you are placed in a different pot.”
A UC press release stated that students could also meet UC requirements by passing standardized tests or taking courses at a community college. Poorsina said CCCS offers a wide variety of classes that have been certified as meeting UC requirements, thereby allowing students to schedule a UC-acceptable curriculum.
“The courses are reviewed by professionals who are retired professors,” Poorsina said. “They review course outlines and curriculum. They are looking at what is taught, and not what textbook is used. The courses are reviewed by a committee, and not just one human being. We are willing to work with schools on how to meet requirements. It’s an interactive process.”
Cecil Swetland, Desert Christian School CEO and ACSI member, said the UC is biased in the way it reviews its own requirements.
“There are thousands of students every year who do not meet basic writing requirements, but the UC lets them take remedial English classes,” Swetland said. “Everyone needs good English skills, and yet these students are not prepared for UC-level work. Now, when it comes to science, a student might take one or two classes at a UC and that’s it. It’s not a key component, but the UC is more than ready to say students don’t meet their standards [if taught from a Christian perspective]. It is complete hypocrisy.”
Swetland said he supports ACSI’s actions, even though his school has not had any difficulties in the past with students getting into a UC school.
“The tolerance the UC preaches stops when it comes to Christian organizations,” Swetland said. “When it happens that someone is from a Creationist school, the UC has no problem in not letting that student in. Somebody can arbitrarily decide not to let in any student that comes from that perspective.”