Topic: God and US
Religion: The Devil in the Details
Last weekend in the pages, in part of a review of the kind of stories that appear in the Sunday papers (see The Sunday Funnies Featuring Curveball) there was something mentioned in passing, really a minor thing. That's a curious lawsuit out here - a group of students from Christian academies are suing UCLA, actually the whole University of California system. The problem is bias, in particular anti-Christian bias. It's a problem with admissions criteria. The University of California schools won't give them credit for high school science courses that say science is wrong - God did it all - so they cannot get in. And they haven't read "ungodly" books so they seem to be a bit short in history and literature. One assumes they're fine in mathematics.
I mentioned this in conversation with my friend, the high-powered Wall Street attorney who studied constitutional law under the man who chaired the committee on the potential impeachment of Richard Nixon. (Nixon resigned before that could happen.) I told him the argument being offered seemed to be that these are pubic universities, and that such public institutions cannot use a religious test to bar applicants for admission - it's a violation of the first amendment regarding the state not taking sides in religious matters. These kids, so the claim goes, were facing discrimination because of their religion.
My Wall Street attorney friend said this suit would never fly, that universities have some sort of "academic freedom" to set standards as they see fit. The university system has the right to set its own standards? Maybe so, but we shall see on December 12th when the Federal District Court in Los Angeles will hear this lawsuit. Can you deny admission to a taxpayer-funded public institution based on religious belief, or are these students truly unprepared for college work? They claim they are not unprepared at all, just devout and godly - and being persecuted for being so.
By the way, there is a matching lawsuit - Evolution Fight Flares at UC-Berkeley (UPI - Monday, November 28, 2005) - "A civil lawsuit has been filed against operators of a University of California-Berkeley website that's designed to help instructors teach evolution."
The argument there is that the Darwinian set of ideas about evolution is, in essence, a form of religion and the state has no business at all spending citizens' tax dollars to support one religion over another - it says so right in the constitution and all that. So shut down that website - don't provide religious training to teachers for them to teach a specific religion in public schools. That one is on shakier grounds, of course.
As for the first lawsuit - brought by the Association of Christian Schools International, representing more than eight hundred of such schools in California, and specifically the Calvary Chapel Christian School of Murrieta (out in Riverside County between Lake Elsinore and Temecula) - there is more detail from Thomas Vinciguerra in the New York Times, Sunday, November 27th in Here's the Problem With Emily Dickinson.
Vinciguerra notes some of the courses in question, those for which the University of California will not allow credit, do not concern Darwin at all, as in "Christianity's Influence in American History" and "Christianity and American Literature." And most of the courses draw on textbooks published by Bob Jones University, down in Greenville, South Carolina. You know, the school that says it has stood for "the absolute authority of the Bible since 1927." Ashcroft has spoken there, so has Bush, so has McCain. No music, no dancing, and until some recent lawsuits, no mixing of "others" with the white race. (Previous comments in these pages here and here.) No one watches SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons there.
What Vinciguerra found in the source texts is interesting.
Thomas Jefferson is kind of the antichrist, according to United States History for Christian Schools - Timothy Keesee and Mark Sidwell (Bob Jones University, 2001) -
And slavery had nothing to do with economics and wasn't really a political question. The problem was sin.
As for Teddy Roosevelt and all the progressives through FDR, their problem was they thought folks could be better people -
Ah yes. Some things cannot be fixed.
As for literature, there's that bad guy Mark Twain - as seen in Elements of Literature for Christian Schools - Ronald Horton, Donalynn Hess and Steven Skeggs (Bob Jones University, 2001) - as Twain called God "an irascible, vindictive, fierce and ever fickle and changeful master." -
Oh yeah, and Emily Dickinson, although she did view the Bible as a source of poetic inspiration, "she never accepted it as an inerrant guide to life." Christina Rossetti, gets a pass.
As for science courses, see Physics for Christian Schools - R. Terrance Egolf and Linda Shumate (Bob Jones University, 2004), and the section "What is Christian about physics?" -
Studying the motion of objects, using math and stuff like that, will weaken your faith?
There's more in the Times item. This should be an interesting case.
And God may be sending signs.
Piece of Supreme Court building falls
Chunk of marble falls onto where tourists normally enter; no one hurt
Associated Press - 10:51 am ET Monday, November 28, 2005
The sound of God's displeasure? The AP item quotes a local saying folks were picking up pieces of the stone and to expect them for sale on eBay tomorrow.
And as mentioned here in Lining Up the Week: What's Hot News, What's Not, Seymour Hersh has a new article in the New Yorker on Bush, and it touches on religion. It just became available online - UP IN THE AIR - Where is the Iraq war headed next? - and it contains this passage:
And so it goes.