The Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, often referred to as simply FCA, was founded in 1954. Since that time, it has remained an established part of school systems all across the nation. In general, the organization is well-liked and appreciated by the schools in which it operates. However, the constitutionality of the FCA’s fundraising aspect has been called into question.
According to a recent ruling by Judge R. Brooke Jackson, a federal judge who was appointed to his position by then-President Barack Obama, the FCA’s fundraising element is unconstitutional.
“The court finds that the defendants’ actions amounted to ‘an excessive government entanglement with religion,'” the judge said.
The actions that caused the eventual ruling in the matter began in 2014. At this time, the FCA members of Highlands Ranch High School, located near Denver, Colorado, decided to go on a mission trip as a group to Guatemala. To raise the needed funds to send the group on their way, a local teacher employed by Cougar Run Elementary School, located within the same district, decided to help raise money by sending home flyers with school children, announcing a supply drive. In addition, the principal also backed the group’s efforts and even sent out emails encouraging parents and kids alike to support the cause.
Apparently, a parent of a child who attended Cougar Run Elementary School was not pleased when her son came home with a flyer advertising the fundraiser. She was even more aggravated when her child’s preschool teacher sent out an email encouraging parents to participate in the supply drive. This seemingly innocent action was enough to enrage this mom to the point that she took the matter to court.
The mother, whose named was not published, called upon the American Humanist Association or (AHA) for help dealing with the issue. She said the matter distressed both her and her son. She believed her son, “felt coerced into participating and contributing to this religious fundraiser.”
“As a non-Christian, the school’s actions in promoting and endorsing a Christian organization…made us feel like outsiders and unwelcome in our own community,” she added.
The mom said her son was treated poorly by his peers when it became obvious he was not going to participate in the supply drive.
The school argued against the mom’s accusations, saying that no student was “required” to participate as it was not a mandated activity. They stated that all students were free to abstain from participating.
As part of his ruling, reached on July 17th, Judge Jackson said that he didn’t personally believe that the “primary purpose of the defendants’ involvement was to promote Christianity.” However, he went on to add, that “the actions of those promoting the supply drive/fundraiser for the mission trip still had the effect of endorsing the Christian religion.” He made special note of the beads and strings that were donated to construct “salvation bracelets” that would be used to share Christ with the people of Guatemala to prove his point.
“Even giving the district the benefit of the doubt concerning whether the promotion of Christianity was the district’s primary actual purpose, the practice under review in fact conveyed a message of endorsement,” the judge said.
As a result, Judge Jackson concluded that the district did in fact violate the “constitutional rights of the mother and her son guaranteed by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The FCA organization offers young Christian people a place in which they can serve their community and have fellowship with other believers. To deem the fundraising efforts of such an organization as unconstitutional is unfortunate. After all, where else can a school organization turn to raise funds than other students, teachers, parents and staff within said school? This ruling could indicate its only a matter of time before other organizations with a religious bend are targeted.
~ 1776 Christian