This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
A court ruling in a fight involving a California school district has resulted in a ruling that officials "can't selectively enforce discriminatory policies against Christian groups while exempting secular ones."
The decision comes from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San Jose Unified School District Board of Education.
The case was decided on First Amendment precedents.
The appeals court ruling addressed the decision by San Jose in 2019 to derecognize the FCA. It seems a teacher had complained about the FCA members discussing issues, including their faith, on campus. Specifically, the teacher complained about the millennia-old biblical belief that marriage is between a woman and a man.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty filed an action against the school in 2020 but originally was denied a request for an injunction.
Now that has been reversed, based on the court's ruling that the district possibly violated the FCA's First Amendment rights.
"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 appeals judges said. "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 Daily Caller News Foundation explained the FCA insists that students who volunteer with the club in a "leadership capacity" sign a statement of faith that includes the belief that "sexual intimacy is designed only to be expressed within the confines of a marriage between one man and one woman" and that they will follow the club’s policy on this issue.
It was Pioneer High teacher Peter Glasser who copied the statement and posted it, complaining that the biblical belief left him "deeply saddened."
One of the outside organizations that filed briefs supporting the FCA was the ADF, and John Bursch released a statement saying, "Public schools should be fostering real diversity of thought, not discriminating against groups based on their religious or political beliefs. The 9th Circuit was right to hold that San José school officials can’t selectively enforce discriminatory policies against Christian groups while exempting secular ones. Today’s students will be tomorrow’s legislators, judges, and civic leaders. That’s why it’s so crucial that public high schools and colleges exemplify the First Amendment values they are supposed to be teaching to students. We congratulate Becket, Christian Legal Society, and Seto Wood & Schweickert on this important win."
The ADF explained the decision also overrules the court's prior adverse ruling in its own Alpha Delta Chi case.
It was after Glasser complained that the district stripped the FCA of its status on campus.
A lower court judge denied the FCA an injunction in 2022, which prevented the group from operating as an "Associated Student Body" while the lawsuit was heard.
The appeals court faulted the district for that, saying the lower court was "trying to hold the FCA to a higher standard than it had for the past two decades," the report said.
"Here, the district’s new policy of enforcing its nondiscrimination rules likewise alters the status quo of providing FCA clubs ASB recognition. Because it was the district’s action that 'affirmatively changed' that status quo and plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction seeks to restore that status quo … the district court thus erred in applying a heightened standard applicable to mandatory injunctions."