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From the Department of Delicious Ironies

January 29, 2009
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A state appeals court has upheld the right of California Lutheran High School to expel two girls it “believes” are lesbians, because the school is “a social organization entitled to follow its own principles, not a business subject to state anti-discrimination laws.”

Kirk Hanson, a lawyer for the two girls, said he was disappointed and would talk to them about a possible appeal to the state Supreme Court.

According to the court, he said, “if you’re a religious school, you can discriminate on any basis you want.”

He also noted that all children must attend school, either public or private, and said schools serve different purposes from a voluntary organization like the Boy Scouts.

John McKay, a lawyer for California Lutheran, said he was pleased the court recognized that “a religious school is not a business, and the purpose of a religious school is to teach Christian values.”

Any state law that required the school to admit gays or lesbians would violate the school’s freedom of expression and religion, McKay said.

(Italics mine.)  If you haven’t lost your appetite already, here’s the delicious irony.  I wanted to confirm that California Lutheran High School is NOT an ELCA institution, so I went to their web site and poked around.  Their statement of faith declares that they are affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.  I started reading the statement, but a friend I emailed it to got through it faster, and wrote back to highlight this item from the “Church and State” section:

9.  We reject any views that hold that citizens are free to disobey such laws of the state with which they disagree on the basis of personal judgment.

Ah.  Bad for citizens to do this; OK for “social organizations.”  (Duff?, are you out there?  Help me understand.)

Speaking of religious homophobia, this seems like a good place to sing the praises of the good people at Faith in America.  I’d love to get my hands on a copy of their new book, Crisis:40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.  If I didn’t let this poor blog languish, untended, for so many days at a time, perhaps I’d get enough traffic to request a review copy!

(Updated to fix a link.)

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. duff permalink
    January 30, 2009 9:37 am

    This isn’t my area of expertise, but . . .
    Private organizations generally are allowed to discriminate if it’s on the basis of their organizing charter. So, for instance, the Boy Scouts can discriminate against gays. Likewise, the Klan doesn’t have to admit African-Americans or Catholics.

    While offensive, I think this is generally the correct rule. Private individuals should be able to have clubs that exclude people they want to exclude. Civil rights legislation has made it illegal for businesses to discriminate, so, for instance, African-Americans can’t be denied a seat in a diner or a room in a hotel.

    I think this is the right balance. Also, frankly, I agree with the court’s decision (without reading it; I might feel differently if I did). Private schools are fundamentally about choosing something out of the public system for your children. There can be a lot of different reasons for wanting that, and they can include bigotry. Fine. The good part is that these wingnuts get exposed when they act this way. Would you want your kid to go to a school that is openly bigoted? No. And now you know that this school is.

    Hate is not illegal, just stupid.

  2. duff permalink
    January 30, 2009 9:40 am

    sorry, let me add one more thing. Citizens are allowed to privately discriminate. They aren’t breaking any laws in doing so.

  3. duff permalink
    January 30, 2009 9:55 am

    Sorry, one more thing. I actually think the Boy Scouts decision (both federal and state) was wrong. I think it’s pretty clear that the Boy Scouts organization has little or nothing to do with teaching sexual morality (or lack thereof, as is presently the case). However, I think the rule is generally the right one. Private individuals should be able to have private institutions that cater to their however misguided beliefs. At some point you need to draw a line and say this is ok, this is not. I think a private religious school should qualify.

  4. duff permalink
    January 30, 2009 10:05 am

    Crikey, four comments all from me. Oh well. I’ve read the decision now. I think it’s correct. It agrees with me: Boy Scouts is the standard [Curran] and this is an even clearer case than that one. I included a quote below.

    Also, when I said “or lack thereof” above, my point is that I think the Boy Scouts present position on homosexuality is immoral (as in, they say homosexuality is immoral; they are wrong; their position is immoral).

    (now for the quote of the case)
    Curran is controlling here. Just like the Boy Scouts, the School “is an expressive social organization whose primary function is the inculcation of values in its youth members.” (Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts, supra, 17 Cal.4th at p. 699.) According to its mission statement, as set forth in its student handbook, “CLHS
    [page break]
    exists to glorify God by using his inerrant Word to nurture discipleship in Christ, serving primarily the youth of our WELS and ELS congregations, equipping them for a lifetime of service to their Savior, their homes, churches, vocations and communities.”
    Moreover, admission to the School, unlike membership in the Boy Scouts, is effectively selective and based on these values. As the Supreme Court noted, “the Boy Scouts is generally nonselective in its admission policies, and affords membership to a large segment of the public . . . .” (Curran v. Mount Diablo Council of the Boy Scouts, supra, 17 Cal.4th at p. 697.) It espouses values, such as being “‘trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent’” (id. at p. 681, fn. 6), that appeal to a broad range of people. By contrast, the School espouses specifically Lutheran values; it offers admission to Lutheran families and to other “families . . . who are in harmony with the policies and principles of our school.”
    (end quote)
    Here’s the statement the parents signed when they enrolled their children: (begin quote)
    Lutherans [the court includes a footnote making it clear that they are addressing only the particular Lutheran synods the school aligns with] believe that homosexuality is a sin. The School has a policy of refusing admission to homosexual students. Its “Christian Conduct” rule provided that a student could be expelled for engaging in immoral or scandalous conduct, whether on or off campus. This would include homosexual conduct.
    The School’s enrollment application, which was supposed to be signed by both the student and a parent, provided: “In attaching their signatures to this application, both student and parent . . . acknowledge their understanding that admission to California Lutheran High School places the student under the policies and regulations of the school . . . and obliges both student and parent . . . to accept and to cooperate with those policies and regulations.

  5. January 30, 2009 10:21 am

    I knew I could count on you! I still find it all reprehensible, but as you so memorably put it, “hate is not illegal, just stupid.” This puts the premises and precedents in perspective for me. Thanks, Duff.

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