A high school in Montana has lifted a ban on a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, allowing the student group to be officially recognized and hold meetings on campus.
Bozeman High School had derecognized the FCA last year when some students complained about the group’s stance on sexual ethics issues like marriage and homosexuality.
However, Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm representing the FCA chapter, announced Tuesday that the high school had reversed course.
“The First Amendment doesn’t permit a public school to play favorites when approving student organizations,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, as quoted in the announcement.
“We commend Bozeman High School for correcting its error and restoring rightful status to BHS Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Students have the constitutionally protected freedom to organize around their shared beliefs.”
The FCA was able to be recognized following a vote taken in August by Bozeman School District leadership allowing for the recognition of noncurricular student clubs.
According to the policy, as reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, FCA would be recognized as a noncurricular club, or a student group that does not reflect what is in the school curriculum.
Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent of operations, told the Chronicle that the new policy treating both types of clubs equally was approved in response to the FCA controversy.
“The policy treats like organizations the same so all of the curricular related clubs and noncurricular clubs will be treated the same and nobody will be treated differently,” said Johnson.
In November 2019, the FCA chapter was told that in order to keep operating at the high school, it would have to disaffiliate from the national FCA and change its name.
At issue was a complaint by a few female students who claimed that the mission statement of FCA ran afoul of the anti-discrimination policy of the school district.
In December of last year, ADF sent a letter of complaint to the school district in protest of the actions against the FCA chapter, arguing that the school could not lawfully reject the club.
“Accordingly, your actions violate federal law under the Equal Access Act and ignore 30-year Supreme Court precedent protecting the rights of religious student clubs to be treated equally with other student clubs,” read the letter.
“Refusing to recognize FCA as a school-sponsored club because of its religious mission and denying it the same privileges as other non-curricular clubs is illegal.”