Federal District Court Denies Preliminary Injunction, Allowing Continued Enforcement of San Jose Unified School District’s Non-Discrimination Policy

On June 1, 2022, Judge Haywood Gilliam of the Northern District of California denied a preliminary injunction requested by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), which sought to enjoin the San Jose Unified School District’s application of its non-discrimination policy to an FCA-affiliated student group.  The District requires high school clubs that seek Associated Student Body (“ASB”) recognition to agree that all students are eligible for membership and leadership regardless of their status or beliefs.  Clubs that don’t obtain ASB recognition may still meet on campus but do not receive the benefits of recognition such as a faculty advisor and ASB account.

The FCA at one District high school had its recognition revoked when the District learned that students seeking leadership positions were required to sign a pledge that, among other things, affirms that they oppose same sex relationships and will conduct themselves in accordance with that belief.  The FCA sued and later sought a preliminary injunction, asserting that the District’s action violated the group’s constitutional rights to the free exercise of religion, speech, and expressive association, as well as parallel statutory rights.

Judge Gilliam denied the preliminary injunction, holding that the FCA plaintiffs were unlikely to succeed in either their facial challenge to the District’s policy or on a theory of selective enforcement.  A motion to dismiss some of the plaintiffs and claims remains pending.  Along with Dannis Woliver Kelley and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Altshuler Berzon LLP represents defendant school district officials, a high school principal, and a high school teacher in the case.

The federal district court’s opinion can be found here.