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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Nixes Claim Over Gay Students’ Expulsion

(CN) - Two girls who were expelled from a private Lutheran school for allegedly having a lesbian relationship can't challenge the school's "Christian conduct" code, because the school doesn't qualify as a "business enterprise" under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, a state appeals court ruled.

California Lutheran High School, located in Wildomar, Calif., expelled the girls in 2005.

The 4th District Appellate Court in Riverside affirmed summary judgment for the school, ruling that it is not a "business enterprise" under the Unruh Act.

The school's "Christian conduct" code provides that a student can be expelled for engaging in a homosexual relationship on or off campus.

In 2005, a student told a teacher that an unnamed female student had said she loved another female student. The informant also suggested that the teacher look on MySpace to identify the students.

The school principal, Pastor Bork, then questioned the girls and said that they had admitted that they were in love, and that they kissed and hugged each other.

In their complaint, the girls alleged unfair business practices and discrimination on the basis of sexual-orientation and gender, in violation of the Unruh Act. The expelled girls claimed that because Lutherans believe women should not have authority over men, and only men are on the school board, the school disciplines female students more harshly than male students.

The girls also sued the school and Pastor Bork, claiming public disclosure of private facts, violation of the California constitutional right to privacy and false imprisonment.

The 4th Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that the school does not qualify as a business enterprise simply because it charges tuition, because tuition payments merely provide funding. The court also noted that, upon enrolling, students sign an agreement acknowledging the school's requirements.

When Pastor Bork told board members about the plaintiffs' alleged relationship, he did not disclose the information to the "public," the appeals court ruled.

The court emphasized the narrow scope of its ruling, saying it held only that the school is not a business enterprise under the Unruh Act.

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