Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Those Screwy Relativists 

The Association of Christian Schools International, which has 4,000 member schools nationwide, has filed a federal lawsuit against the UC system claiming "religious bias." Their argument, as we understand it, is that academic admissions standards should be subject to the approval of religious cults, and state universities should be legally bound to endorse whatever hooey Christian schools wish to teach:
In a small room at the University of California's headquarters in downtown Oakland, UC counsel Christopher Patti sat beside a stack of textbooks proposed for use by Calvary Chapel Christian School in Riverside County -- books UC rejected as failing to meet freshmen admission requirements.

Biology and physics textbooks from Christian publishers were found wanting, as were three Calvary humanities courses.

"The university is not telling these schools what they can and can't teach," Patti said. "What the university is doing is simply establishing what is and is not its entrance requirements. It's really a case of the university's ability to set its own admission standards. The university has no quarrel with Christian schools" . . . .

"The university is in a way firing a shot over the bow," said Charles Haynes, a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., "saying to Christian schools that they may have gotten away with this in the past, but no more. And that will have a chilling effect across the country."

In its suit, the association and its co-plaintiffs objected "to government officials ... dictating and censoring the viewpoints that may and may not be taught ... (in) private schools. ... (They) have rejected textbooks and courses based on a viewpoint of religious faith, for the first time in the University of California's history." The rejections, the suit asserted, "violate the freedom of speech of Christian schools, students and teachers."

On Oct. 28, UC asked U.S. District Judge S. James Otero to dismiss the suit. The university was not "stopping plaintiffs from teaching or studying anything," it argued. "This lawsuit is really an attempt to control the regents' educational choices. Plaintiffs seek to constrain the regents' exercise of its First Amendment-protected right of academic freedom to establish admissions criteria."

Patti said that neither Calvary Chapel, nor any other Christian school, was singled out in the curriculum review process. "The textbooks and courses weren't rejected on a religious faith objection. The university rejects 15 to 20 percent of all courses submitted the first time around. (The courses) simply didn't meet the university's academic standards."

Hollman, the church/state attorney, pointed out it was Calvary Chapel that did something new by proposing the courses, "as opposed to the university changing its view of the school and the students. Is UC applying its academic requirements to these Christian schools and their students the same way they do to other schools? If so, UC will prevail and this lawsuit will go away."
The judge in the case has promised a decision within ninety days.

TANGENTIALLY RELATED SIDEBAR: From "Wired for Creationism?", an Atlantic Unbound interview in which Paul Bloom discusses the tendency of the human brain to "see intention where only artifice or accident exists":
Q.: That may bring us back to your point that within any given religion there are different levels of intellectual reasoning. There are religious people who can look at the Grand Canyon and say, "Yes, it was created by these elaborate scientific processes, but that just proves all the more how brilliant the creator must be." Do you think it's possible for people to have such subtle thinking that they don't have to choose between science and divinity?

BLOOM: I think it's better than that. Someone who has a scientific worldview can actually get more appreciation from nature than someone with a religious worldview. I don't want to say this in an offensive way, but religious explanations are typically very boring. They're uninspired and they end very quickly. When you look at the actual facts of how the Grand Canyon was formed, and you look at the actual nuances of Darwinian evolution, it's far more interesting, far more beautiful, than what you find in the Old Testament and the New Testament. So when it comes to appreciating things, I think scientists have an edge over religious people.
EVEN MORE TANGENTIALLY RELATED SIDEBAR (via our distinguished colleague Keith Kisser at the Invisible Library): Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, on the atheist's dilemma:
It is worth noting that no one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer or a non-alchemist. Consequently, we do not have words for people who deny the validity of these pseudo-disciplines. Likewise, atheism is a term that should not even exist. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make when in the presence of religious dogma. The atheist is merely a person who believes that the 260 million Americans (87% of the population) who claim to “never doubt the existence of God” should be obliged to present evidence for his existence—and, indeed, for his benevolence, given the relentless destruction of innocent human beings we witness in the world each day. Only the atheist appreciates just how uncanny our situation is: Most of us believe in a God that is every bit as specious as the gods of Mount Olympus; no person, whatever his or her qualifications, can seek public office in the United States without pretending to be certain that such a God exists; and much of what passes for public policy in our country conforms to religious taboos and superstitions appropriate to a medieval theocracy. Our circumstance is abject, indefensible and terrifying. It would be hilarious if the stakes were not so high.

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