Main | Wednesday, January 28, 2009

CA Court: Religious Schools Can Expel Gays

A disappointing ruling from California in the case of the Christian school whose teacher spied on students' MySpace pages and had two girls expelled for being gay.
After a Lutheran school expelled two 16-year-old girls for having "a bond of intimacy" that was "characteristic of a lesbian relationship," the girls sued, contending the school had violated a state anti-discrimination law. In response to that suit, an appeals court decided this week that the private religious school was not a business and therefore did not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating. A lawyer for the girls said Tuesday that he would ask the California Supreme Court to overturn the unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.

The appeals court called its decision "narrow," but lawyers on both sides of the case said it would protect private religious schools across California from such discrimination suits. Kirk D. Hanson, who represented the girls, said the "very troubling" ruling would permit private schools to discriminate against anyone, as long as the schools used their religious beliefs as justification. "It is almost like it could roll back 20 to 30 years of progress we have made in this area," said the San Diego attorney. "Basically, this decision gives private schools the license to discriminate." John McKay, who represented the Riverside County-based California Lutheran High School, said the ruling correctly acknowledged that the school's purpose was to "teach Christian values in a Christian setting pursuant to a Christian code of conduct."
The appeals court judge cited the precedent of the Boy Scouts having been ruled a private organization, not a business, and therefore exempt from discrimination laws. The students are now in college and decline to identify their sexual orientation.

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