Vicky Arias, FISM News
A school district in California continues to refuse official recognition of a student-led Christian club in their schools.
San Jose Unified School District withdrew its approval of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, or FCA, in 2019, a move that sparked a legal battle to ensue for the past three years.
The FCA is a Christian organization that both holds camps to train athletes in their chosen sport and conducts Bible studies for its members.
Students associated with the FCA formed clubs in the San Jose Unified School District for over 10 years to pray and read the Bible together, according to World. However, in 2019 the club was de-recognized by the school district after a faculty member at one of its schools, Pioneer High School, expressed disagreement with the Christian group’s views.
The club states that anyone can become a member, but in order to become a student leader in the group, one must sign the club’s statement of faith. According to Mercury News, the statement reads, in part, that “God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.”
The Center for Law and Religious Freedom stated that Peter Glasser, a history teacher at Pioneer High School, posted a copy of the statement on his classroom’s whiteboard and wrote beneath it that he was “deeply saddened that a club on Pioneer’s campus asks its members to affirm these statements. How do you feel?” Students from the Christian club were in attendance at Glasser’s classes at the time.
Soon after, “Pioneer High School began recognizing a group called the Satanic Temple Club… [which] gathered at the same time [as] Pioneer’s FCA chapter and soon began demonstrating outside of the FCA meetings, including yelling at FCA members as they entered their meetings,” as reported by Mercury News.
In 2019, according to World, the school district caved to pressure from students and faculty, and revoked its approval of the FCA, “because it required club leaders to affirm its statement of faith.”
In 2020, the FCA, along with 2 students from the club, sued the district for discrimination.
A court document in the case states that the school district discriminated against the FCA Student Chapters “because of their religious beliefs and speech” and goes on to explain that in the same year the Christian club’s approval was revoked, the school district approved “over 50 non-curriculum related student groups,” including the Communism Club, Chess Club, Frisbee Club, Gender Sexuality Club, LatinX Club, Pacific Islander Club, Persian Club, Ping Pong Club, Politics Club, Shrek Club, and the Satanic Temple Club.
The lawsuit contends that the school district violated the United States Equal Access Act of 1984, which “prohibits federally-funded public secondary schools…from discriminating against any meeting of students on the basis of religious content.”
According to the Daily Citizen, a motion to allow the club to continue meeting as court proceedings continue was denied by “Judge Haywood S. Gilliam, Jr., appointed to the federal bench in 2014 by President Barack Obama ” in June of this year.
The FCA appealed the decision, and on August 9, 2022, a lawyer for the FCA “asked a three-judge federal appeals court…to allow the group back on campus prior to the start of the 2022-2023 school year later this month.”
A decision from the court has yet to be handed down.