January 30, 2009

Witch hunt in California

There was a troubling court ruling out of California (of all places) this week.

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 troubling part is not that a private school can discriminate against a student's sexuality. It's the fact that the court said they could discriminate on the belief that a young person is gay or lesbian. There does not appear to be any evidence that the students in question were actually lesbian or in a relationship, only the rumor based on something someone else saw on MySpace. Makes you wonder if the principal of California Lutheran posted a reward for the outing of suspected gays. (This school is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which is very much on the conservative end of the spectrum.) I'm saddened that they are so exclusionary towards gays and lesbians, but I do uphold that as their right.

What is dangerous is telling any young person who may be question his/her sexual orientation that they are wrong, do not belong, or are bad. Any modern educator, like the principal at this school, should know that. The statistics about teenagers who are in some quandary about their orientation who take their own lives or attempt to take their own lives are staggering. Most often, those young people have been told or made to feel that their "choice" is going to tear up their family, anger God, cause a spike in crude oil prices, bring about Armageddon, etc. OK, maybe those last two are a bit of an exaggeration, but (as my late grandmother would say) the fact remains... It's not enough that they can't keep up with the "normal" stresses of being a teenager, but throw in the added confusion of trying to figure out their sexuality and life just got a whole lot more complicated.

If California Lutheran High School, or whatever private school, wants to disallow students because of their race, sexual orientation or nation of origin, that's their loss. But to expel a student because of that rumor is not only wrong, but seems to fly in the face of Christ's command to love one another as He loves us.

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