Judges in California ruled on two cases related to Christian education in August, deciding against an association of Christian schools but ruling in favor of parents' right to homeschool without a teaching degree.

A federal judge upheld the University of California's refusal to recognize certain high-school courses offered by Christian schools when considering admissions eligibility.

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled that UC professors had a "rational basis" for rejecting credit for five courses, most of which used textbooks from Pensacola Christian College's A Beka Book curricula publisher. A biology course that used A Beka Book's Biology: God's Living Creation was deemed by a UC professor to have failed at adequately teaching critical thinking or the theory of evolution.

UC provost Wyatt R. Hume praised the ruling. "As we have said all along, the question the university addresses in reviewing courses is not whether they have religious content, but whether they provide adequate instruction in the subject matter," he said.

The schools have appealed the recent decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, believes the case could have implications for schools across the country.

"The University of California claims that they are not interfering with what this Christian school or other schools are teaching, that they're just setting standards for admissions," Haynes said. "A closer look reveals that by denying credit because of their religious content, the California school is putting pressure on Christian schools to teach courses from a secular perspective."

In another closely watched case, a California Court of Appeals ruled that state law allows parents to homeschool their children without obtaining teaching certificates. The ruling reversed an appellate court decision in February that families' religious convictions do not guarantee a right to homeschool their children.

An estimated 166,000 students are homeschooled in California, and Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Virginia-based Homeschool Legal Defense Association, estimates that two-thirds of parents who homeschool do so for religious reasons. Farris argued before the court against the earlier decision, which said that minor children must attend a public school unless the child attends a private school or is taught by a teacher with a valid state teaching license.

"The initial decision was the death of homeschooling in California," Farris said. "The only reason not to panic was that it wasn't the final word." The case came to the attention of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services after one of a family's eight children alleged physical and emotional mistreatment by the father.

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The father involved in the case, Phillip Long, told Christianity Today that they homeschool because of their "strong biblical beliefs."

"The Creator said that we are to teach our children; he didn't say hand our responsibility to others to teach our children," Long said.

California families who homeschool are required to file a private school affidavit with state regulators or to enroll their children in alternate education programs, such as private school satellite instruction or independent study.

The children in the case had been enrolled in Sunland Christian School, an institution that coordinates independent study programs for homeschooling families. The school's principal, Terry Neven, said the case gives parents who homeschool more clarity.

"We haven't had that kind of confidence before. It's like buying a car and you didn't know if it was going to run right," Neven said. "It gives us not only a sense of relief and victory, but [also] gives us confidence."

Related Elsewhere:

Christian school case:

The decision is available online.

Other coverage includes:

Judge rejects lawsuit by Christian school | California's closely watched debate over the standing of religious education goes on. (Chicago Tribune)
Court: University of California can reject Christian school classes (Religion News Service)
Judge rules against Christian schools in UC suit | A federal judge has ruled that the University of California did not discriminate against two Christian high schools in Southern California when it refused to honor some of their courses when considering students' eligibility for admission to UC campuses. (The Mercury News)
Murrieta Christian school loses case against UC | A judge rules that the university system was not discriminatory in its refusal to count certain classes toward admission. (Los Angeles Times)

Homeschooling case:

The new decision is online, as well as some background on the family's previous cases. Christianity Today's earlier coverage and the earlier decision are online.

Other coverage includes:

Parents may home-school children without teaching credential, California court says | Gov. Schwarzenegger praises the reversal by the 2nd District Court of Appeal as a victory for students and parental rights. (Los Angeles Times)
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California appeals court affirms home schooling by non-credentialed parents | In a decision widely praised, a California appeals court this morning affirmed the right of parents who don't have a teaching credential to educate their children at home. (The Mercury News)
A Homeschooling Win in California | Back in February, a California court stunned the homeschooling families in the state when it declared that Mom or Dad had to have a credentialed teaching degree — or else their kids would be considered truants. (Time magazine)

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