ADF attorneys ask full 9th Circuit to review case on Christian student group excluded by public school officials
SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund submitted a petition to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Friday asking the full court to review the case Truth v. Kent School District. A three-judge panel ruled on Aug. 24 that public high school officials in Washington state may bar a Bible Club from campus because it requires members to desire to “grow in a relationship with Jesus Christ.” The panel noted that other student clubs may require members to share the clubs’ beliefs but held that Christian clubs are not allowed to do the same.
“Public high school officials cannot treat Christian students on campus as second-class citizens,” said ADF Legal Counsel Tim Chandler. “This is the first federal appellate court decision allowing high school officials to exclude a Bible Club from campus even while officially recognizing other clubs. The Truth Bible Club simply wants access to the same benefits and privileges given to all other student groups on campus. Excluding the club is a gross violation of the First Amendment and the Equal Access Act.”
For nearly two years, Kentridge High School officials stonewalled students Sarice Undis and Julianne Stewart after they submitted a club charter application in September 2001. School officials instructed them to apply again in 2003, but rejected two additional applications because of the club’s membership policies. ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum argued the case before the 9th Circuit on behalf of the two students.
“Ironically, the school officials are using a non-discrimination policy to discriminate against the Truth Bible Club,” said Chandler. “Student clubs should not be forced to accept members who do not share their core beliefs. Congress passed the Equal Access Act specifically to protect student clubs like this one.”
Robert Tyler of Advocates for Faith and Freedom and Keith Kemper of Ellis, Li, & McKinstry, PLLP, in Seattle serve as co-counsel with ADF on the case.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.