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A pending civil rights lawsuit in California carries national implications about whether religious schools have rights and protections that exceed those of other private schools. The case against a small Lutheran high school that expelled two students for alleged "lesbian behavior" also has highlighted the decision by some Christian schools to quell unchristian behavior—such as homosexuality—by removing the offending students.

The school's attorney, John McKay, said the girls exhibited "lesbian behavior" in photos and written messages on MySpace.com. After interviewing them, principal Greg Bork determined "they were in love with each other," McKay said.

Christopher Hayes, the students' attorney, is asking the courts to award unspecified damages and to reinstate the girls. He told CT they were "mugging for the camera" and that no inappropriate conduct was seen or reported. "Whether they were in a relationship is irrelevant," he said.

Officials at California Lutheran High School (CLHS), a Riverside County school of about 140, determined the girls' relationship violated the school's code of conduct, which does not explicitly mention homosexuality. The school is run by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which considers homosexuality a sin. McKay told CT the girls received the same punishment that would be given to a heterosexual couple having premarital sex.

"It's a religious institution, and it was concluded that anybody engaged in non-Christian conduct would be expelled," McKay said. "By keeping them there, they would have condoned the conduct the girls were engaged in, and it would have been a bad influence on the other students."

The CLHS case is not unique, especially as teens face sexual pressures at younger ...

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September 2006

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