Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Facial Challenge By Christian High School To UC's Admissions Policy Rejected

Last week, a California federal district court handed down an initial decision in Association of Christian Schools International v. Stearns, (CD CA, March 28, 2008). In the case, Calvary Chapel Christian School, 5 of its students and an association of Christian schools challenged the admissions policy of the University of California on free speech, free exercise, establishment clause and equal protection grounds. Plaintiffs brought both facial and "as applied" challenges. At issue was UC's decision not to approve certain high school courses in science, social science and history offered by Christian schools. This precluded applicants for admission from using these to show their proficiency in various subject areas.

The court denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, rejecting their claims that UC rejects courses solely because they are taught from a religious viewpoint. The court granted defendant's motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's facial challenges. This leaves for trial the "as applied" challenges, including questions of the reasonableness of UC's decisions to denial approval for specific religious school courses. The University's press release describes the court's holding in its 49-page opinion as follows:
UC moved for partial summary judgment on the basis that that its review policies and the position statements are constitutional exercises of the University’s right to evaluate the qualifications of applicants for admission. The Court agreed, holding that the University has a legitimate interest in evaluating the adequacy of high school courses to prepare students for study at UC; that its process for doing so is reasonable; that the University’s academic standards are also reasonable and do not discriminate against religion; that the position statements are a reasonable application of those academic standards; and that the University accommodates religious school students in various ways.
(See prior related posting.) [Thanks to Ed Brayton for the lead via Religionlaw listserv.]