Religious Freedom Trumps Gay Rights in California Court

| 1/29/2009 10:02:47 AM

For a state that prides itself on being a beacon of progress in American politics, California seems intent on proving it can be just as backwards as everyone else, at least when it comes to gay rights. A California appeals court ruled this week that California Lutheran High School didn’t violate the law when it expelled two students it suspected of being lesbians, determining that the state’s civil rights laws don’t apply to private religious schools. According to the San Francisco Chronicle:

The ruling is the first to consider a religious school’s status under California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which forbids discrimination by businesses and was amended in 2005 to include discrimination based on sexual orientation. State education law also forbids anti-gay bias, but that law applies only to public schools.

The court determined that California Lutheran didn’t qualify as a business and therefore wasn’t bound by the act. The school’s lawyer applauded the ruling, telling the Chronicle that the court rightly recognized their right to exercise freedom of religion. But Kirk Hanson, an attorney for the expelled girls, told the L.A. Times that the “very troubling” decision essentially gave private schools carte blanche to discriminate against students for any reason, as long as they could defend their actions on religious grounds. The Times reports that the girls plan to take their case to the California Supreme Court.

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