By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has ruled that Chestnut Hill College is subject to state anti-discrimination laws despite its Catholic affiliation, reinforcing protection from bias for students in the state’s 26 Catholic colleges, including some 40,000 students in the Philadelphia area.

Chestnut Hill had appealed to Commonwealth Court after the state Human Relations Commission found probable cause for a discrimination complaint by Michael-Allan Meads, an African-American former student who was expelled in 2012, just weeks before graduation, for allegedly misspending money from a student production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

More details about the case are here: “Probable Cause” For A Discrimination Complaint Against Chestnut Hill College

The college had argued it was not subject to the Commission’s proceedings because earlier court rulings had found Catholic elementary and high schools are exempt from discrimination claims in disciplinary matters.

But the judges ruled colleges are distinctly different, Citing a Supreme Court ruling that “colleges, as opposed to parochial schools, perform ‘essentially secular educational functions,’ thus reducing their religious character.”

Chestnut Hill released this statement:

“We are disappointed with the Court’s decision. We sought clarification of existing law and, while we do not agree with the Court’s reasoning, we respect the Court’s opinion.”

The Commission had no comment.

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