San Jose Unified School District: Where Satan
worshipers are welcomed and Christians banned.
They’re coming for you next: On September 13, 2023 the Federal Ninth Circuit Court overturned a ban of the student group, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), by San Jose Unified School District, stating that the district cannot allow some groups it agrees with to meet on campus but ban religious groups it dislikes.
In April 2019, controversy erupted at the San Jose Unified School District’s Pioneer High School in California over a Fellowship of Christian Athletes requirement that student leaders comply with the group’s Statement of Faith and its Sexual Purity Statement. The former requires student leaders of the group to hew to the tenets of traditional Christian theology and the belief that “marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman,” while the latter affirms that “the appropriate place for sexual expression is in the context of a marriage relationship.” After a teacher complained about FCA’s faith requirements to the school principal and later presented his concerns to a school leadership “Climate Committee” composed of several school department chairs and administrators, the school revoked FCA’s official recognition as a school student club.
For the 2019-20 school year, FCA applied for recognition again and, predictably, was denied. Yet as the Ninth Circuit notes, the Satanic Temple Club, which even the complaining teacher believed was formed to mock FCA, was approved despite having its own set of non-religious “tenets” similar to FCA’s faith requirements.
For the past three years the FCA has been fighting this decision in the courts, even as it continued to meet on campus as an unrecognized club while facing harassment and protests, one of which required police action. At the same time San Jose put its policy into clear language [pdf], requiring “recognized student groups to permit any student to become a member or leader, if they meet non-discriminatory criteria.” Yet, while banning FCA because it did not want Satanists for example to belong and lead, it continued to allow other secular groups, such as its South Asian heritage and the Senior Women clubs, the right to limit membership based on ethnicity and gender.
The court’s decision [pdf] was blunt.
Individual preferences based on certain characteristics and criteria serve important purposes for these groups. It is hardly a leap of logic to say that the Senior Women club benefits from having all female members to help their members feel more comfortable. And it is understandable that other clubs require “good moral character.” But at the same time, it makes equal sense that a religious group be allowed to require that its leaders agree with the group’s most fundamental beliefs.
Simply put, there is no meaningful constitutionally acceptable distinction between the types of exclusions at play here. Whether they are based on gender, race, or faith, each group’s exclusionary membership requirements pose an identical risk to the District’s stated interest in ensuring equal access for all student to all programs.
Thus, the court ruled that if the school district insisted on a policy that required FCA to allow Satanists to join and lead it, then it had to also require women’s clubs to allow men to join and lead it as well. Such a policy of course makes no sense, and in fact violates the first amendment right of free association.
What San Jose will do now is unclear. It could recognize FCA and stop trying to enforce this idiotic non-discrimination policy. Or it could shut down all clubs and thus relieve itself of the problem. Expect the latter, though we should also expect the school district to finds ways under the table to allow its preferred student clubs, such as the Satanist Club, to operate on campus unmolested and with aid.
When that happens, we should then expect a new lawsuit.
I say, get your kids out of these public schools, now! Their administrators and faculty do not make your kids’ proper education their prime goal. Instead, their goal is purely political, pushing ideas that are almost evil. And if you think I am overstating the case, remember that this school district had no problem approving a Satanist club, and still maintains support groups for queers and Latinos.