Skip to main content

Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San José Unified School District Board of Education

Description:  Fellowship of Christian Athletes served students at Pioneer High School in San José for more than a decade. But in 2019, school officials stripped the student organization of its recognized status in response to a teacher’s targeted campaign against the club based on its deeply held religious beliefs on human sexuality and requirement that club leaders affirm those beliefs. The group is filing suit asking the San José Unified School District return its status as a recognized student group at Pioneer High School.

Students studying the Bible
Thursday, Sep 14, 2023

The following quote may be attributed to Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel and Vice President of Appellate Advocacy John Bursch regarding the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s decision in Fellowship of Christian Athletes v. San José Unified School District Board of Education to uphold the First Amendment rights of a Christian student organization and treat it the same as other campus groups:

“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.”

In February, ADF attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the 9th Circuit on behalf of two Christian student organizations, Ratio Christi and Chi Alpha. The 9th Circuit’s en banc decision overrules the court’s prior adverse ruling in ADF’s Alpha Delta Chi case based on ADF’s U.S. Supreme Court victory in Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

# # #

Previous News Releases

Legal Documents

Related Resources

ABOUT John Bursch

John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom. Bursch has argued 12 U.S. Supreme Court cases and more than 30 state supreme court cases since 2011, and a recent study concluded that among all frequent Supreme Court advocates who did not work for the federal government, he had the 3rd highest success rate for persuading justices to adopt his legal position. Bursch served as solicitor general for the state of Michigan from 2011-2013. He has argued multiple Michigan Supreme Court cases in eight of the last ten terms and has successfully litigated hundreds of matters nationwide, including six with at least $1 billion at stake. As part of his private firm, Bursch Law PLLC, he has represented Fortune 500 companies, foreign and domestic governments, top public officials, and industry associations in high-profile cases, primarily on appeal. He received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1997 from the University of Minnesota Law School and is admitted to practice in numerous federal district and appellate courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.