California school district must reinstate Christian student group dropped for LGBTQ stance, federal court rules
by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A federal court of appeals ruled on August 29 that a Christian athletics group must be reinstated as an official student club in San Jose, California, after it was de-recognized by school officials for requiring its leaders to abide by the belief that marriage is between one man and one woman, Education Week (EW) reports.
The case arose when the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which has around 7,000 chapters in US colleges, high schools, and middle schools, sued the San Jose Unified School District for violating its constitutional right to freedom of religion by de-recognizing it, EW reports. The Fellowship confirmed it requires its leaders to abide by a “statement of faith” which includes opposition to same-sex marriage and a belief that gender is assigned at birth and cannot be altered.
The school district claimed the Fellowship’s leadership requirement violates the district’s nondiscrimination policy for protecting LGBTQ students, EW reports.
In a 2-1 ruling, the US Court of Appeals 9th Circuit said the San Jose Unified School District had likely violated the constitutional right of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes to exercise religious freedom by derecognizing it, EW said. The court noted that the school district allows other student groups to apply entry restrictions, including a group for “Senior Women.”
“Under the First Amendment, our government must be scrupulously neutral when it comes to religion: It cannot treat religious groups worse than comparable secular ones. But the school district did just that,” the 9th Circuit panel majority said. “The school district engaged in selective enforcement of its own nondiscrimination policy, penalizing FCA while looking the other way with other student groups.”