We are happy to note here that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in California, has upheld the right of a Christian seminary to expel two students in same-sex marriages. After being expelled, the two students sued in federal court claiming that the expulsions violated federal laws which prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
The school countered by citing a blanket provision in federal law, known as the “religious exemption,” which specifically states that the anti-discrimination laws “shall not apply to an educational institution which is controlled by a religious organization if the application …would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”
The students argued that the religious exemption does not apply to their particular seminary because the school operates independently, and not under the umbrella of any external organization.
The appeals court ruled, however, that the meaning of the word “organization” used in the statute does not require that the school be affiliated with an external organization. It was sufficient that the school was controlled by their own board of trustees.
The clash between gay rights and religious rights is one of the great debates of our time and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court may be in the offing. This decision by what is widely considered the most liberal circuit is a welcome decision nonetheless.