Christian Student Club Can’t Discriminate, Says Appeals Court

A federal appeals court has tossed aside a student religious club’s lawsuit against a Washington State public school district’s anti-discrimination policy.

In late August, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the student Christian club, known as “Truth,” had failed to prove that it should be exempt from state law and the school district’s anti-discrimination policy.

The lawsuit was prompted after the student government at Kentridge High School refused to grant an exemption to the Christian club. The high school only grants charters for operation to student groups that pledge not to discriminate in admissions.

The religious club, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, argued that by denying the charter, the school district had violated its free expression and religious liberty rights. The Kentridge student government had denied the club’s request for a charter because its membership was “contingent upon the member complying in good faith with Christian character, Christian speech, Christian behavior and Christian conduct as generally described in the Bible.”

The 9th Circuit concluded in Truth v. Kent School District that the school district was on solid ground in rejecting the religious club’s request for a charter. The court said states are justified in “prohibiting invidious discrimination” and that nothing Kent school officials and students did targeted the religious club’s free speech or religious liberty rights.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a friend-of-the-court brief urging the 9th Circuit to uphold the school district’s anti-discrimination policies.