Christian Schools Demand College Credit

Olivia Del Gavio-Kusich loved her religious classes at California's St. Francis High School, even though they didn't necessarily help her get into college.

When it came time to apply, just two of the Catholic school's eight required courses qualified for college credit in the prestigious University of California state college system.

And while she's OK with that, a coalition of private Christian schools is not and alleges in a lawsuit that UC's crediting policy is a form of religious discrimination.

Del Gavio-Kusich, a bright, college-bound 18-year-old from Belmont, Calif., says most of her core academic classes were rigorous. But other required classes, like Christian Vocations and another that detailed the Catholic church's position on sex education, were "mostly easy" and had "lots of opinion," she said.

"Some of them were a joke, and the textbooks were poorly written," she said.

The UC system -- which includes more than 220,000 students on 10 publicly funded campuses, considered some of the most competitive in the nation -- has historically agreed with Del Gavio-Kusich that many religious courses, especially those that declare the Bible infallible and reject evolution, do not meet academic muster.

"My religious courses never required much research and are taught by teachers who have their own beliefs," said Del Gavio-Kusich. "You get a religious point of view."

But a group of private Christian high schools and students is challenging UC, saying in a lawsuit that it practices religious discrimination by not accrediting many God-centric courses. They argue that secularism is also a belief and that religious students are judged unfairly.

"We have clear evidence of bias in the UC state system," said Robert Tyler, legal counsel for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting religious liberty in the courts and spreading the Christian word that "society is increasingly devoid of the message and influence of God."

"These students are treated like second-class citizens for their beliefs," he told

A Dismissal, Then an Appeal

The lawsuit -- Association of Christian Schools International vs. Stearns -- was originally filed in 2005 and challenges the university system's approval process for college preparatory courses, known as a-g requirements.

But last week, U.S. District Judge James Otero of Los Angeles dismissed the suit, ruling that UC's review committees cited legitimate reasons for rejecting four texts at the Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., not because they contained religious viewpoints, but because they omitted important topics in science and history and did not encourage "critical thinking skills."

In a previous ruling in March, Otero found no anti-religious bias in the state university system.

"We are very pleased with Judge Otero's decision," said Wyatt R. Hume, UC provost and executive vice president for academic and health affairs, in a prepared release after the dismissal was announced. "The University welcomes students of all religious faiths and recognizes that a diversity of educational backgrounds among our students, including religious education, enriches the UC community and the academic experience."

Soon after the dismissal was announced, the association of 700 mostly Protestant religious schools appealed Otero's decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

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