Recently the California Supreme Court affirmed the right of private religious schools to enforce codes of “Christian Conduct” by declining to review a case involving expulsion of students for suspected homosexual activity. The high court’s decision not to review the case out of Riverside County upholds the ruling of a lower court that the religious school in question is not a business enterprise and, therefore, not subject to California’s 50-year-old Unruh Civil Rights Act.
The California Lutheran High School is a private religious institution that was sued by the parents of two girls who were expelled from the school for engaging in homosexual activity–activity forbidden under the school’s “Christian Conduct” code. The two girls alleged that they had been discriminated against based on perceived sexual orientation, in violation of the Unruh act. The court held a narrow rule that the school was not a business as defined by the Unruh Civil Rights Act.
A brief with the Supreme Court was filed by the Association of Faith-based Organizations, which represents 830 private religious schools in California. The organization requested consideration of the case under the First Amendment on the basis that religious institutions are given independence to operate without government interference on matters of religion. The association’s attorney, Isaac Fong claims that applying the Unruh act to private religious schools threatens their religious autonomy.
The Supreme Court chose not to take the case by a 6-1 vote. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar favored granting review. San Diego lawyer John McKay who represented the school feels relief at the decision of the High Court, asserting that it demonstrates “that the issues raised by the plaintiffs were in essence not proper [and] that the school does have a right to provide an education to children within the religious beliefs that they subscribe to.”