To the students of California private parochial schools, a word of advice: be careful who you hug in the hall. Or at home, or in My Space photos.

Yesterday, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Bernardino, Calif. ruled that California Lutheran High School in Riverside County is allowed to expel students it believes to be lesbians. Why? According to the Los Angeles Times, the appeals court decided that “the private religious school was not a business and therefore did not have to comply with a state law that prohibits businesses from discriminating.” The district court cited a 1998 state Supreme Court ruling that allowed The Boy Scouts of America to keep gays and atheists away from their wholesome s’mores and bonfires.

The most horrifying detail involved in the Golden State’s recent display of institutionalized bigotry is how the evidence against the students was gathered and deployed. As for the “outing,” the L.A. Times reported:

“The dispute started when a student at the school told a teacher in 2005 that one of the girls had said she loved the other. The student advised the teacher to look at the girls’ MySpace pages. One of the girls was identified as bisexual on her MySpace page, the other’s page said she was “not sure” of her sexual orientation.

McKay said the website also contained a photograph of the girls hugging.”

Gasp! Not only did the girls hug, but they reportedly admitted to loving each other. As friends. “Love thy neighbor,” sure, but everything in moderation I s’pose.

And while it’s certainly no news that one’s carefully constructed e-identity can come back to bite one in the ass (and that private institutions enjoy more control over operations than public ones), one has to wonder what the teenager who outed the two girls was thinking – “I must save these sinners?” “I must get on Sister Catherine’s good side?” Hopefully the former, because I refuse to believe the race for college admissions has gotten that tight.

If anything is certain, though, it’s that the gap between public and private (meta)space is closing, and a teenager’s room to negotiate her identity is shrinking along with it.

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