Partial win for Cal. Baptist in transgender case
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP) -- California Baptist University had the legal right to expel a transgender student for violating its code of conduct, according to the ruling of a California judge.
Former nursing student Domaine Javier, a male who identifies as female, charged he was kicked out of the Baptist school because he revealed on an episode of MTV'S "True Life" reality show that he is biologically male. The school said Javier was expelled for falsely claiming on his application that he is female.
Javier sued Cal Baptist in 2011 for discrimination based on gender identity, a violation of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits business establishments from discriminating on the basis of "gender, gender identity and gender expression." But Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask ruled that CBU is not subject to the law because it is not a "business enterprise."
Cal Baptist is affiliated with the California Southern Baptist Convention, and all of its trustees are required to be members of Southern Baptist churches.
"Every secular subject [taught at CBU] is expressly intertwined with a values-based Christian religious component, taught by a Christian," Trask wrote in her 11-page decision released July 11. "Whatever economic benefit the student hopes to gain from the CBU educational experience, CBU clearly intends to send forth an engineer, nurse, businessperson, or teacher who will be able to apply its religious values in the secular world."
Trask did award Javier attorney fees plus $4,000 in damages because CBU excluded him from university-controlled businesses and services that are open to the public, including restaurants, libraries and online classes.
Both sides claimed victory in the case.
"CBU is pleased that the court recognized that California Baptist University is a private Christian university and is not a business establishment under the Unruh Act," James McDonald, an attorney who represents CBU, told Riverside's Press-Enterprise. "The court also ruled that the plaintiff did not have a valid breach-of-contract claim."
Javier, now a nursing student at Riverside City College, said in a statement that he is "thrilled by today's ruling. It's such a huge victory for me personally and for other transgender people like me. While the monetary award is small, it's never been about the money for me. It's about being treated fairly and standing up for what's right."
Both sides told the Press-Enterprise they may appeal parts of the ruling that went against them. The case had been scheduled to go to trial later this month.
U.S. News and World Report ranked Cal Baptist among the top regional universities in 2013. The Riverside-based school boasts on its website that it has more than 7,000 students and a 100 percent Christian faculty and staff offering 150 undergraduate and 35 graduate majors and concentrations.
Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).