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University of California Can Deny Science Credit From Christian High Schools

on August 16, 2008
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San Francisco Chronicle: “Judge Says UC Can Deny Religious Course Credit” The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Judge James Otero’s ruling that the University of California may deny science credit for students from Christian high schools.

The U.S. district judge was hearing a case that pitted Christian schools against the University of California (a system with several schools sprinkled throughout the state). Originating in 2005, the Christian schools maintained that the university relied on an unconstitutional anti-religious bias in its review of high school science classes.

The schools claimed the university rejected any courses with any reference to God’s involvement in history or any alternative to evolution.

Explaining the plaintiff’s position was Jennifer Monk of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, a legal representative of the Christian schools. “It appears the UC is attempting to secularize private religious schools,” Monk said. The schools claimed the university rejected any courses with any reference to God’s involvement in history or any alternative to evolution.

On the other hand were university officials such as Charles Robinson, UC vice president for legal affairs, who countered that the ruling allowed his school to “apply the same admissions standards to all students and to all high schools without regard to their religious affiliations.”

Judge Otero, in siding with the defendants, explained that he rejected the plaintiff’s case because the university, rather than rejecting any material from a religious viewpoint, rejected only what curricula failed to teach the required science, history, and critical thinking. The judge also said the plaintiffs failed to show anti-religious hostility on the part of the university, or that the students were denied the ability to attend the school.

Additionally, the university system has apparently approved some courses with religious views, such as classes taught using Chemistry for Christian Schools and Biology: God's Living Creation that discuss creation as well as evolution. Among the books used in rejected courses were Christianity’s Influence on America and Biology for Christian Schools, both of which instruct that the Bible is the inerrant starting point for knowledge. “[If scientific] conclusions contradict the Word of God, the conclusions are wrong,” Otero cited from the latter book as a reason for its rejection.

Furthermore, students who are denied automatic credit based on science courses can remain eligible by “scoring well in those subjects on the Scholastic Assessment Test” (SAT), reports the Chronicle.

Monk said the university was nonetheless making generalizations based on publisher. “If it comes from certain publishers or from a religious perspective, UC simply denies them.”

One might expect that our response to this news would be as easy as a quick dismissal of the judge’s decision, especially since the judge’s quote from Biology for Christian Schools sounds like it could have come from our website (and obviously represents our viewpoint).

Without having specifically reviewed the rejected courses and texts, however, we can’t say for sure whether the university was only tossing out insufficient coursework or not. Since many courses teach evolution as unquestionable truth, it is no surprise that students are expected to have some understanding of evolution. But we wonder whether public school students, if tested, would actually score better than Christian school students on tests over evolution and earth history. That would be a much more accurate barometer of whether Christian students understand evolution or not. After all, how many great scientists of the past several hundred years exclusively studied, performed, and proclaimed Bible-uplifting research?

How many great scientists of the past several hundred years exclusively studied, performed, and proclaimed Bible-uplifting research?

It also seems clear that some valid texts have probably been disallowed merely due to their unabashed proclamation of God’s Word as inerrant, or simply because they present young-earth creation as opposed to old-earth creation or vague intelligent design.

Another question: the court is quick to rule against biblically based texts deemed inferior, but what about texts based on anti-God agendas that likewise (allegedly) fail to teach critical thinking or present wacky ideas rooted in the rejection of creation?

Ultimately, this case is representative of the public—and academia’s—continued refusal to acknowledge the role of presuppositions in shaping how we acquire knowledge, including in the scientific sphere. As long as many schools, scientists, and even courts view scientific truth as the objective result of “majority rules” thinking, people will continue to dismiss the Bible’s account of origins out of hand as “disproved” by modern science. And as a consequence, public institutions will maintain a bias against Scripture if it goes against the prevailing “wisdom.”

For a more positive development regarding the state of California and education (especially Christians there who are homeschooling), see item seven.


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