In 2019, the San Jose Unified School District derecognized the Fellowship for Christian Athletics (FCA) as an Associated Student Body after a teacher at Pioneer High School made complaints that the club was sharing its faith on campus, including the biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The club has since faced several defeats in court, but last month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district violated the rights of the FCA.
"The federal district court hearing this case initially did not rule in favor of the Christian club," notes Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute. "The Ninth Circuit looked at it from the broader perspective, and that is to the extent to which the Constitution protects religious freedom for everyone."
"The district, rather than treating FCA like comparable secular student groups whose membership was limited based on criteria including sex, race, ethnicity, and gender identity, penalized it based on its religious beliefs," the ruling reads. "Because the Constitution prohibits such a double standard—even in the absence of any motive to do so—we reverse the district court's denial of FCA's motion for a preliminary injunction."
The lower court had ruled against the FCA's request for an injunction in June 2022, so the club could not operate on campus as an Associated Student Body while the lawsuit went through the court system. The appeals court, however, determined that decision was flawed.
If the district "has the audacity" to file an appeal and continue to challenge the FCA, then Dacus believes this case will give the Supreme Court an excellent opportunity to correct some bad case law precedent.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the Christian club throughout this legal battle.