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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Javier v. Cal Baptist: Private religious school not subject to Calfornia anti-discrimination act

Javier v. Cal Baptist: Private religious school not subject to Calfornia anti-discrimination act.

An opinion from the Superior Court of Riverside, California (http://bit.ly/1oT9GqA), holds that the expulsion of a transgender student from California Baptist University based on her transgender identity did not violate the state's anti-discrimination law, because the law only applies to business establishments. It also holds that her exclusion from certain retail business establishments within the school did violate the state anti-discrimination law.

1. This private religious university does not meet the definition of the state law prohibiting discrimination, which includes only business establishments. The term "business establishment" is undefined in the law, but has been interpreted by previous California courts so as not to apply to private religious schools. The law  does not cover "entities" or "associations," particularly those with a value-based religious or educational component. The California courts had previous found that the Boy Scouts and a Lutheran high school did not fall under the state law. The judge decided that the school, despite the fact that it included some commercial elements, was more of an educational association.  Therefore, it did not violate the state law by expelling the plaintiff, because the state anti-discrimination law did not apply.

2. lts library, counseling center, art gallery, and on-Iine courses have little or no value-based component, so they are considered business establishments under the state law. The plaintiff was wrongly excluded from these areas, and receives the statutory minimum damages amount, which is $4,000. To that extent, it was a victory for the plaintiff.

Plaintiff's attorney said the opinion stood for the proposition that "Today, the court recognized that transgender people are not frauds and that any business that treats them that way is in violation of the state’s anti-discrimination statute..." I do not see this in the opinion. It did decide that the Plaintiff was entitled to protection from exclusion from the library, counseling center, art gallery and on-line courses. However, it did not decide whether the school had a valid defense, based on the school's contention that the plaintiff's statement on her application that she is female was fraudulent.

I think advocates in California need to make some revisions to the state anti-discrimination law.

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