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CULTURE DIGEST: Christian school sues Univ. of Calif. over credits; Calif. school backs away from Intelligent Design

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A Christian high school in California is suing the University of California for refusing to grant credits for some classes taught at the school, which the university claims support a Christian worldview not protected by the First Amendment.

Representatives of Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., say the university has unconstitutionally treated their students unequally compared to other students during the admissions process, according to USA Today Jan. 12.

The civil rights lawsuit alleges that the University of California, with 10 campuses throughout the state, is infringing upon Calvary Chapel’s freedom to be religious as a religious school.

The disputed classes include history, English, social studies and science, or “every major area in high school except for mathematics,” a Calvary Chapel lawyer said, according to USA Today. UC rejected the content taught in courses such as “Christianity’s Influence in American History” and “Christianity and Morality in American Literature.”

Some classes were rejected because the main textbooks were from Christian publishers such as Bob Jones University Press, USA Today said. A biology book, for example, presents creationism and Intelligent Design along with evolution, and the introduction reads, “The people who have prepared this book have tried consistently to put the Word of God first and science second.”

Lawyers for the Christian school noted that the university accepts courses from other schools taught from a specific viewpoint, such as feminist, African American or countercultural, USA Today reported. So it’s inconsistent to reject classes taught from a Christian perspective, they say.

A federal judge is expected to rule soon on the case, which is being watched nationwide because it could impact religious schools and even home schools across the country if the university wins. A decision either way is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, USA Today said.

CALIF. SCHOOL HALTS INTELLIGENT DESIGN CLASS — Without the financial resources necessary to fight a lawsuit brought on by Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a rural school district in California has agreed to stop teaching a class called “Philosophy of Design,” which opponents said was unconstitutional because it attempted to legitimize intelligent design.

The El Tejon school system in Lebec, Calif., agreed in a settlement to end the course and said it would never again offer a “course that promotes or endorses creationism, creation science or intelligent design,” according to the Associated Press Jan. 17.

“This sends a strong signal to school districts across the country that they cannot promote creationism or intelligent design as an alternative to evolution, whether they do so in a science class or a humanities class,” Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United, said, according to AP.

Americans United had sued the school district on behalf of 11 parents who objected to the class — a high school philosophy course in which arguments for and against intelligent design would be explored.

Similar battles are still being fought in Georgia and Kansas, and a U.S. district judge ruled in December not to allow intelligent design to be taught in a Dover, Pa., school system.

IPOD SERVES AS SERMON SERIES ILLUSTRATION — A Houston pastor is in the midst of a four-part series called “The Theology of the iPod,” based on the increasingly popular gadget made by Apple Computer Inc. which allows users to store hundreds of songs, photos and videos.

“What does the iPod have to do with your life?” Sal Sberna, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Houston asked his 4,000-member congregation. The four sermons focus on making one’s life innovative, simple, small and synchronized, according to the church website, themetonline.org.

“The reason the outside of the iPod is so simple to use and so beautiful to look at is because of the way they designed the inside of the iPod,” Sberna said Jan. 15. “All you do on the outside is push the little button, drive the wheel and pick what usefulness you want out of your iPod. And so when Jesus talks to us about simplification, it must start on the inside.”

One of Sberna’s goals is to reach out to a generation of youth who rely daily on their iPods and completely understand the language associated with the devices. Another goal is to bring in the unchurched, according to the Associated Press.

“I am always looking for something that a majority of people can relate to,” Sberna, who owns two iPods, said.

In the future, Sberna hopes to offer his sermons through podcasts, which are audio files that can be downloaded onto iPods, MP3 players and other digital devices.

57 PERCENT CAN’T NAME A SUPREME COURT JUSTICE — Even in a year when the Supreme Court has garnered broad media coverage for the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist, the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, the nomination of Harriet Miers and the confirmation of John Roberts, 57 percent of Americans cannot name one person who sits on the bench.

A survey conducted by FindLaw.com, a leading legal website, found that out of a representative national sample of 1,000 Americans, only 43 percent can name at least one current Supreme Court justice.

O’Connor, the first woman appointed to the court, was the most well-known justice with 27 percent of the people surveyed naming her. Clarence Thomas was next with 21 percent, followed by Roberts with 16 percent, Antonin Scalia with 13 percent and Ruth Bader Ginsburg with 12 percent. Less than 10 percent of the population polled could name Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Stephen Breyer or John Paul Stevens.

FindLaw.com reported in a Jan. 10 news release that 46 percent of men compared to 39 percent of women could name at least one member of the Supreme Court. Also, the ability to correctly name justices rises with increases in age, education and household income.

Five percent of Americans believe Rehnquist still serves on the Supreme Court, although he died last September. Two percent of Americans believe Samuel Alito is a Supreme Court justice, though he remains a nominee until the Senate confirms him.

The percentage of Americans who can name eight or more of the nine Supreme Court justices statistically rounds to zero, FindLaw.com said.

“In a way it’s not surprising that most members of the public can’t name a single Supreme Court justice,” Stephen Presser, a constitutional historian and professor at Northwestern University Law School, told FindLaw.com. “The average citizen probably doesn’t view the judicial role as being as important as the role of Congress, which in effect makes the laws, or the president, who administers the laws.

“The reality is that who sits on the Supreme Court makes a big difference as to what happens to us as a nation,” he said. “As such, the public ought to be paying more attention to the Supreme Court and the battles over the nomination of justices.”

DIVORCE RATES AMONG SOLDIERS DECLINES — After a sharp increase of 78 percent from 2003 to 2004, the divorce rate among active-duty military officers declined 61 percent from 2004 to 2005, according to statistics released by the U.S. Army. Divorces among enlisted personnel remained about the same from 2004 to 2005.

The stress of combat, long separations and difficulties readjusting to family life are among the factors that tend to contribute to the breakup of marriages when one or more partners have been deployed, USA Today noted Jan. 9.

Last year, 1,292 officers, or about one in every 43 who were married, got a divorce. That number is down from 3,325 in 2004, the Army said. Divorces among enlisted soldiers fell slightly from 7,152 in 2004 to 7,075 in 2005. Last year’s total means about one in every 28 enlisted soldiers who were married sought a divorce.

Col. Glen Bloomstrom, an Army chaplain who leads marriage counseling programs, told USA Today he was unsure why the number of divorces among officers declined last year, but it may be related to the increased counseling available.

“We are pleased,” he said. “We in the Army are conveying a sense of care for marriages and families.”

    About the Author

  • Erin Curry Roach