Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The whitewashed tombs of California

by Laura Smith-Gary

"...Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself... Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself." 1 Samuel 18:1,3 NIV

In 2005, a private Lutheran high school in California expelled two female students for having a "bond of intimacy" that was "characteristic of a lesbian relationship." (According to the article I linked to, evidence of this intimate bond was an online picture of the girls hugging, a reported verbal expressions of affection, and a MySpace listing of "not sure" as a sexual orientation). When the girls filed an anti-discrimination lawsuit, the school argued that having a legal right to expel students based on the appearance of a possible homosexual relationship was critical in instilling Christian values in their students.

On January 28th, California's 4th District Court of Appeal unanimously sided with the administration. Again according to the article above, after the trial the school's lawyer said that the ruling was important because it would allow private schools to "teach Christian values in a Christian setting pursuant to a Christian code of conduct."

There are so many things wrong with this it makes my head spin. I'll spare you the bulk of my constitutional, legal, religious, moral, practical, and political dissection of this fiasco, but the summarized version is this: in the past, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed private schools to do pretty much whatever they want, especially if they cite religion as a factor -- with a few key, relevant exceptions like Bob Jones v. The United States. (In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that because the country had a critical interest in ending racial discrimination, as long as the school had an interracial dating ban the United States government had every legal right to withdraw all support.)

And other than some dubious constitutional-precedent support, California Lutheran High School don’t have a leg to stand on in expelling these girls -- not ethically, not religiously, not practically. A male principal has the right to interrogate two female sixteen-year-olds about their sexual orientation and possible inappropriate touching, the school has the right to expel two best friends because someone overheard them say "I love you" to each other, the administration has the right to inform their parents about their appearance of possible "sin", and all these adults charged with educating and nurturing teenagers have the right to humiliate and condemn two young women in every circle where they could possibly hope for support, because otherwise they won't be able to teach Christian values in a Christian setting? Are you kidding me?

If anyone wants to discuss Boy Scouts v. Dale, Leviticus, the federal and state regulation of private schools, or anything else relevant, by all means comment and we will discuss. For now, though, instead of dissecting of the case piece by piece for you, I will end as I began, with a quotation from the book supposedly shaping the lives and guiding the actions of the staff, students and administration of California Lutheran High School:

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew 23:27, NIV

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