San Francisco Chronicle | Bob Egelko | Jan. 28, 2009
A private religious high school can expel students it believes are lesbians because the school isn’t covered by California civil rights laws, a state appeals court has ruled.
Relying on a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude gays and atheists, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Bernardino said California Lutheran High School is a social organization entitled to follow its own principles, not a business subject to state anti-discrimination laws.
“The 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,” Justice Betty Richli said in the 3-0 ruling, issued Monday.
As with the Boy Scouts, she said, the primary function of the school is to instill its values in young people, who are told of its policies when they enroll.
Kirk Hanson, a lawyer for the two girls, said he was disappointed and would talk to them about a possible appeal to the state Supreme Court.
According to the court, he said, “if you’re a religious school, you can discriminate on any basis you want.”
He also noted that all children must attend school, either public or private, and said schools serve different purposes from a voluntary organization like the Boy Scouts.
John McKay, a lawyer for California Lutheran, said he was pleased the court recognized that “a religious school is not a business, and the purpose of a religious school is to teach Christian values.”
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