The Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Pioneer High School in San Jose, California, requires all student leaders to sign a “Statement of Faith” and a “Sexual Purity” statement. This requirement, which calls on students to proclaim that sexual acts between same-sex couples are sinful and that same-sex couples cannot form a valid marriage, violates the school district’s policy against discrimination because it effectively bars LGBTQ students from club leadership.
When the school district, recognizing that the Fellowship’s requirements violate its policy, didn’t allow the Fellowship to be listed as an official school club, the Fellowship sued the district. Americans United began representing the district in the summer of 2021.
On May 12, 2022, a federal district court held a hearing to decide whether the Fellowship student chapter was entitled to an order requiring the school district to recognize the club for the upcoming school year. On June 1, 2022, the court held that the student chapter was not entitled to that relief.
The student chapter appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and we filed an appellate brief defending the ruling. On August 29, 2022, by a 2-1 vote, a Ninth Circuit panel reversed the district court’s ruling and required the school district to recognize the student chapter while the case proceeds in the district court. On October 3, 2022, we filed a petition asking a larger panel of the Ninth Circuit to reconsider that decision and rehear the appeal. The Ninth Circuit granted the petition for rehearing on January 18, 2023, and heard oral argument on March 23, 2023. On September 13, 2023, a majority of the larger panel issued an opinion concluding that the student chapter is entitled to be reinstated as an officially recognized student group while the litigation progresses in the district court to a final determination.