Legal Question in Education Law in California

Can a student have their religion impuned by faculty and forced to read a textbook that denegrates their Christian Beliefs and places Islam first i.e. Ishmael by Dan Quin and the faculty refuses to give equal time to Satanic Verses by Salmon Rushdie? , and will not explore other alternative texts in a Public Community College? I thought there was Academic Freedom in California Public Colleges?

Asked on 9/15/10, 8:01 pm

3 Answers from Attorneys

George Shers Law Offices of Georges H. Shers

Academic freedon referrs to the lack of cerrtain restraints on the faculty, not the students. A teacher can not try to force a clearly religious belief onto their students, but the entire area of law on this issue is very cloudy. Many religious doctrines are also considered just to be issues of morality, decedency, etc. And one can not discuss many subjects without possibly stepping onto someone's religious beliefs.

But yes a teacher can require reading that attacks someones' religion; it would be wrong to forebid the teaching of the history of the Crusades, even though doing so is to engage in a rather obvious attack upon the Pope's and men of faith of the time. And one does not have to try to present information or style in a balanced fashion, especially since everyone has a different idea as to what would really be balanced.

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Answered on 9/20/10, 9:04 pm
Michelle Ball Law Office of Michelle Ball

Religious discrimination is not allowed in colleges. However, the professors determine their curriculum. If you have an issue, you could ask the teacher for an alternative assignment and/or go see the higher ups to try to work this out.

It is difficult to address in this forum and needs to be more thoroughly reviewed. These matters are fact specific.

Best of luck,

Michelle Ball

Education Attorney for Students since 1995

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Answered on 9/21/10, 12:01 pm
Andrew Harrell W. Andrew Harrell, Attorney at Law

This isn't a question of religious discrimination. It is merely one of the subject matter presented in a course. It would be perilous and unacceptable for students, parents, administrators, or others to be in a position to dictate the content of a professor's course in a public institution. This is not the case in a private college or university, however.

W. A. Harrell

Attorney at Law and Professor Emeritus

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Answered on 9/22/10, 9:52 am

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