A 16-year-old sophomore and his Christian family are challenging a Bret Harte High School policy that prohibits discussion of religion in science classes.
Grayson Mobley, who attended grades 1 through 8 at Christian Family Learning Center in Angels Camp, is now a straight A student at Bret Harte High and he has received math and science awards, his father and his family’s attorney say.
“When he walked into science class his teacher said any notion of God or creation needs to left outside the classroom,” Grayson’s father, Troy Mobley, said Monday in a phone interview. “That was the ground rules at the beginning of the year. Grayson is not trying to argue about it. He never brought it up. He’s being told right from the get-go don’t even bring it up. He feels like his freedom of speech right is being taken away.”
Greg Glaser, a Copperopolis attorney, is representing the Mobleys and he plans to address the Bret Harte Union High School District board tonight at a 6 p.m. meeting in Angels Camp. Glaser says there have been discussions and postings on social media and he anticipates people on both sides of the issue will come to the meeting.
“Our goal is simple,” Glaser said. “We're asking the board to lift their ban on God in science class.”
Michael Chimente, the district superintendent, says the board has Glaser’s appearance agendized as “informational” only, not as an action item. That means it is unlikely the school district board will amend or change any policy at tonight’s meetings.
The district’s policy states: “Philosophical and religious theories are based, at least in part, on faith, and are not subject to scientific test and refutation. Such beliefs shall not be discussed in science classes, but may be addressed in the social science and language arts curricula.”
Chimente says the policy comes from the California School Boards Association, also known as CSBA.
“The District has no reason to believe that CSBA's policies do not comply with the current state of the law,” Chimente said Monday.
According to the Mobleys and Glaser, Grayson’s science teacher, Jerre Maurer, told students on the first day of school in August, “Leave all ideas and notions about God outside my classroom” and “Science is fact and religion is faith.”
Back when he attended Christian Family Learning Center, Grayson studied creationism, his father said.
“Creationism is that God created the heavens and earth, and that’s what he was taught and that’s what we believe,” Troy Mobley said. “He’s not allowed to say anything in class and he doesn't because he wants to be compliant.”
In September, Grayson’s mother, Lisa Mobley, received an email from Kylee Luchetti, Bret Harte High principal, saying in part, “Ms. Maurer’s statement that God/religion would not be discussed during class time is in line with Board Policy at this time.”
Glaser says California State Board of Education policy allows for discussion of religion in science classes.
“I don't know why Bret Harte policy does not,” Glaser said. “That’s what we’re going to hear about today, an explanation of their policy.”
If Glaser and the Mobley family can convince the school district board to amend their policy, “Grayson will not proselytize or redirect scientific discussions off-topic,” Glaser said.
“Rather, Grayson's intent is that if he observes that the class discussion has again descended into Scientism (the extreme dogma that only modern scientific theory can explain life), then Grayson would like to politely exercise his Constitutional right to offer his perspective in the discussion, namely, that God created life,” Glaser said.
Troy Mobley says he and his family practice their faith at Church of the Nazarene in Sutter Creek. Christian Family Learning Center, where Grayson attended grades 1 through 8, was founded in 1991 as an elementary and junior high school, owned and operated by parents of the students. It’s billed as an interdenominational school and is a member of the Association of Christian Schools International.
The Bret Harte Union High School District board meeting tonight is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. at Bret Harte Learning Center, 364 Murphys Grade Road. The board is expected to go to closed session and reconvene at 6 p.m. Glaser expects to appear after 6 p.m.