Monday, December 08, 2014

Former High School Softball Players' Suit On School Religious Activites Moves Ahead

In Ryan v. Mesa Unified School District, (D AZ, Dec. 5, 2014), three former members of a Mesa, Arizona high school varsity girls' softball team sued the school district and the softball coach, Joseph Goodman, over various religious activities. The court held that plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the school's LDS Church released time program. However, the court permitted plaintiffs to move ahead with two other claims, but only against Coach Goodman:

First, the court allowed an Establishment Clause claim alleging that during the 2013-14 girls softball season, certain players were appointed “prayer leaders” to lead a team prayer at the beginning of every game. Plaintiffs were dismissed from the team after one of them announced, and the others supported, an end to these prayers.

Second, the court allowed a free speech claim growing out of a 2014 softball tournament where hip-hop and other popular music was played to get players in a proper mental state for the game. One of the plaintiffs, the daughter of an LDS Church member, found the music offensive to her religious sensibilities. During the same tournament, the LDS parent of that plaintiff read a speech from a Tweet by another of the plaintiffs, and the content of the Tweet was reported to Coach Goodman.  Apparently this was related to the reason for plaintiffs' dismissal from the team.