California Court Rules That Lutheran School May Expel Students as Suspected Lesbians

churchA California appellate court has ruled that the Riverside County-based California Lutheran High School was permitted to expelled two 16-year-old girls for having “a bond of intimacy” that was “characteristic of a lesbian relationship.” It is a major ruling in favor of free exercise, finding that the religious mission of the school trumped the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

The basis for the expulsion remains rather murky since the girls were punished for “conducting themselves in a manner consistent with being lesbians.” It is not clear what the Lutheran officials believed was “a manner consistent with being lesbians” but the court left that up to the respective church.

It appears that in 2005, a third student reported that one of the girls had said she loved the other and told the teacher that one of the girls was identified as bisexual on her MySpace page while the other’s page said she was “not sure” of her sexual orientation. There was also a picture of the girls hugging.

The decision is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, where the Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts to bar gay cub scout leaders. The case is relied upon by the California Supreme Court. Justice Betty A. Richli noted that “[t]he whole purpose of sending one’s child to a religious school is to ensure that he or she learns even secular subjects within a religious framework.”

One of the most interesting aspects of the decision is the holding that the school is not “a business” even if it accepts money from non-members:

Plaintiffs argue that the School is a business because it charges students for its educational services. However, both Warfield and Curran focused on business transactions with nonmembers. It seems implicit in both opinions that an otherwise private organization can engage in some business transactions with members without the risk of becoming a “business enterprise” for purposes of the Unruh Act. After all, even a private organization must have some source of funding for “the basic activities or services” that it offers. As long as this funding comes from members, it should not matter whether it is called a tithe, dues, fees, tuition, or something else.

While I strongly believe that religious organizations have the right to discriminate on the basis of their faith, as discussed here, I have great concerns about government support for such schools.

The ruling has great significance for the growing subsidy of religious schools through voucher programs. I have previously written about the problem of using government funds to support schools that routinely engage in discriminatory practices or teach offensive values that are protected by the first amendment.

For a copy of the opinion, click here.

For the full story, click here.

23 thoughts on “California Court Rules That Lutheran School May Expel Students as Suspected Lesbians”

  1. whooliebacon,

    Welcome back! I’d say look for church members stocking up metamucil and there’s your test.

  2. whooliebacon, I believe that my own denomination used to find waterboarding especially effective as a means of rooting out actual Lutherans. I do not know if it would work with suspected lesbians.

  3. “Suspected lesbians.” That’s classic, JT.

    What, pray tell, would be the definition of a suspected Lutheran…

  4. rafflaw:

    “What is good for the goose is good for the Gander, isn’t it?”

    No rafflaw. I see you haven’t dealt with the classic theological notion of Selective Sinning, or as we say around the priory “Sell Sin.” It goes like this: Sinning is allowed only if you are the wrong religion, color, or have insufficient assets to purchase indulgences which relieve you of the aforesaid sin. Sexual sins are not really sins if between discrete consenting adults, or between clergy and non-consenting minors. Bathroom sex is discouraged as a sin unless you can develop a plausible reason why you are giving hand signals to another male under the stall wall. (Reaching for toilet paper is the classic deflection of sin here.) Pastors of small churches can sin with the congregation, but pastors of mega-churches can only sin if caught red-handed, with a hooker in the car, or on videotape, and then their punishment is limited to counseling, and forfeiture of monies illicitly obtained by them for benefit of family, friends, or their political representative from elderly widows fearful of their promises of eternal damnation. There are other tenets too numerous to mention, but I suppose you get the gist of this doctrine of the damned.

  5. I am also not a fan of the Faith based initiative crap. I understand the concept of this school claiming that their religion doesn’t allow same sex relationships, but how does their private lives have anything to do with the religous schools teachings? Does this mean that the administrators have to ask every student about every possible area of sin in their private lives? Are they not discriminating if they only ask those personal questions from lesbians? Aren’t there some heterosexual students who are having sex out of wedlock that should also be questioned and then expelled?? What is good for the goose is good for the Gander, isn’t it?

  6. in what ways has the redistricting of house seats been used for the political gain of certain groups and party’s in the various states?

    Ohter than the obvious does anybody have any other thoughts? My daughter has a 12th grade government class.

    Sorry about the divergence, but I only know the obvious answer to this.

  7. Yes–it is a private school, but aren’t private schools businesses? Here [] it says that the precedent for this case is set by the Boy Scout’s Trial, in which court ruled that boy scouts were an “organization” not a business.

    Would love if someone could clear that up.

  8. Is this case a confluence of two issues? Firstly, because this is a public school, certain constitutional rights are not applicable (since they are restrictions on the state). Secondly, the fact that sexual orientation is not a protected class, or has not been ruled to be a protected class?

    Does the 14th Am. equal protection clause apply to these girls? Could they have been expelled if they were black just for being black?

    Too bad I haven’t taken con law yet, or I’d know this surely!

  9. I still want someone to explain to me how loving another human is somehow “un-Godly” because their parts aren’t plug and play. Well, I mean explain it and not sound hypocritical at the same time. So far, I haven’t seen that argument succeed.

  10. “There was also a picture of the girls hugging.”

    Well I never! You people are morons for missing this important data proving beyond reasonable doubt 1. the girls are lesbians and 2. being lesbian is a reason to be kicked out of school. Is there something in that logic that’s not clear? Next thing you know Army “bromances” will prove every guy is gay.

  11. If the school accepts any money from Local, State or Federal funds the decision is a poor one, beyond the individual facts of the charges which cross over into the ridiculous. If it is pristine in that its’ funding comes solely from its’ church, or tuition then it has a right to act as stupidly (and Non-Christianly as Mespo points out)as they want. However, I believe they should not be entitled to any State certifications, standardized tests, etc. If they want to be pure in their archaic beliefs, than they should be willing to suffer the consequences.

  12. In Sarah Palin’s church, a member can be expelled for conduct consistent with being a witch, but I don’t believe they receive federal funds. This decision is disturbing on sooo many levels that it’s hard to know where to begin, or even whether reasonable analysis is possible. It appears that the decision rested on a determination that the school was not a business enterprise for civil rights purposes. I’m not sure that challenging the expulsion on the grounds selected by the plaintiffs was the best course of action; it does not appear that the plaintiffs raised any federal constitutional claims.

    The decision is a good example of why I oppose faith-based initiatives and public funding of religious schools (including funding through voucher programs). It also demonstrates that secular accreditation organizations are not doing their jobs. Why in the world do we accredit educational institutions that regard the biological process of sexual orientation as a matter of “belief?” And even the ignoring the bad science, the announced ground for the expulsion is so vaguely worded that it virtually guarantees arbitrary decision-making. Would we support an accrediting organization that could deny or revoke accreditation for a school whose governing board engaged in conduct consistent with being morons?

    Sorry, but I have a tendency to ramble when I allow myself to react to stupidity without giving myself enough time to digest it.

  13. mespo,

    Once again you prove the value of a book is in reading it, not eating it. Good job, sir.

  14. Buddha:

    Apparently the School missed that little scene in John:

    3And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

    4They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

    5Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

    6This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

    7So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    8And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

    9And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

    10When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

    11She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

    John 8 (KJV)

  15. I know a lot of Lutherans. Most of them have better sense than this. So much for compassion and tolerance. Good job. Jesus would be proud, er, appalled, yeah, that’s it. Appalled.

  16. I don’t think you can serve God and mammon either. If you take money from non-members and provide a service,I think you are under the anti-discrimination rules that govern all businesses. This exception carved by the California Supremes seems another contortion act to promote religion and, in also in this case, invidious religious discrimination. May the Arayan Church refuse sales in it’s online store to black customers? I thought Heart of Atlanta Hotel v. United States fixed that problem years ago.

    As for Justice Betty A. Richli’s statement that “[t]he whole purpose of sending one’s child to a religious school is to ensure that he or she learns even secular subjects within a religious framework.” I say that the whole purpose of sending one’s child to school in a democracy is to learn that we are a diverse society with no need for little enclaves of religious totalitarianism. “Conducting themselves in a manner consistent with being lesbians,” indeed. What tripe! That’s certainly expanding the flock.

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