Creationist lawsuit against UC system in the news again

As a lawsuit against the University of California system wends its way through the legal system -- with a hearing on a motion to dismiss the complaint to be heard in federal court in Los Angeles on December 12, 2005 -- the media is taking notice of it again. The suit charges the University of California system with violating the constitutional rights of applicants from Christian schools whose high school coursework is deemed inadequate preparation for college. Creationism is involved, since the plaintiffs cite the university's policy of rejecting high school biology courses that use textbooks published by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Books as "inconsistent with the viewpoints and knowledge generally accepted in the scientific community" in their complaint. One of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs is Wendell Bird, a former staff attorney for the Institute for Creation Research.

"The case is being closely tracked by free speech advocates, public educators and Christian leaders who are concerned about the impact the case could have on state school admissions policies and the ability of some Christian schools to teach their core beliefs," wrote Matt Krasnowski in the San Diego Union-Tribune (November 23, 2005). Krasnowski interviewed a variety of experts for his story, including lawyers on both sides of the case, Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center (who speculated that the plaintiffs might have a valid case), Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (who is worried about a subsequent wave of similar cases), and NCSE's Glenn Branch (who was quoted as saying, "I don't think the UC is insisting that incoming students accept evolution ... They want them to have a good understanding of it.")

In his syndicated column for the Sacramento Bee (November 23, 2005), Peter Schrag reviewed the recent controversies in Dover, Pennsylvania, and Kansas before reminding his readers that "California isn't immune" and describing the lawsuit in detail. (He notes that the preparers of one of the books at issue, Bob Jones University's Biology for Christian Schools, write in the introduction that they "have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second.") "Still UC is taking the suit seriously, concerned that it might compromise its right to set its admission standards," Schrag concludes. "More important, according to UC spokesperson Ravi Poorsina, is the worry that the suit will create an impression that the university doesn't welcome students from Christian schools, something that she says simply isn't true. It could also bring another fatwa from Pat Robertson."