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Federal judge dismisses suit against New York college's sex course

The Associated Press
02.04.99

NEW YORK — A Brooklyn federal judge has rejected an effort to outlaw a Long Island college's course on sex, saying religious groups should not dictate curriculum on public campuses.

In an 18-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Nina Gershon dismissed a 1995 lawsuit brought by a group of plaintiffs that included three Nassau County residents. They had alleged that the Nassau County Community College course, "Human Sexuality and Family Life," was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state.

The course covers broad subjects including anatomy, pregnancy, childbirth, gender roles, sexual response, sexual dysfunction and sexually transmitted diseases. It has been offered at the Garden City school since the late 1960s.

The plaintiffs argued that the course should be banned because it violated students' First Amendment protection of freedom of religion — known as the establishment clause — by encouraging them to reject "traditional Jewish and Christian, and particularly Catholic" religious tenets. Instead, the plaintiffs said, the course promoted an anti-religious ethic of "sexual pluralism."

The suit relied in part on affidavits by students. One said the Catholic Church was attacked and belittled during class. But Gershon found no evidence that course materials urged students to reject or adopt certain religious beliefs.

"In fact, the relief sought by the plaintiffs would itself result in a violation of the Establishment Clause," Gershon wrote on Jan. 21. "Allowing religious groups to dictate the curriculum of a public college would have a direct and obvious effect of endorsing those groups' religious views."

In a statement released Feb. 2, Nassau County City College President Sean Fanelli said he was "gratified by the court's vindication of our commitment to academic freedom."


Related

Federal judge: Parents don't have right to dictate curriculum

Court throws out lawsuit that objected to discussions about gay families in public school classrooms. 02.26.07

1st Circuit backs schools' lessons on gay families

Panel finds Lexington, Mass., parents' rights to exercise their religious beliefs aren't violated when their children are exposed to contrary ideas in school. 02.01.08

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