Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Court Upholds Texas Sports League's Exclusion of Christian School

In Texas, a Christian school has lost its bid to become a member of the state's intescholastic league for public schools. Cornerstone Christian Schools applied for membership in University Interscholastic League (UIL) after the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS) refused in 2006 to renew its membership because of violations of the league's recruiting rules. In Cornerstone Christian Schools v. University Interscholastic League, (WD TX, April 1, 2008) [full text of opinion, Part 1, Part 2, Order], a Texas federal district court in a lengthy opinion upheld UIL's refusal to permit Cornerstone to apply for membership. As interpreted by UIL, its rules disqualified Christian Cornerstone once the school had been excluded from TAPPS for recruiting violations. The court agreed with UIL's interpretation of its rule, describing Cornerstone's attempt to read the rule otherwise as "semantically and ecclesiastically akin to how many angels can fit on the head of a pin."

The court's conclusion was signaled by its its initial description of Cornerstone's allegations: "Having successfully created an athletic powerhouse no longer welcomed by other Christian schools, Cornerstone incongruously invokes the power of the federal government to have its earthly desires accomplished."

Moving to plaintiffs' various constitutional assertions, the court held that only the parents and students who were plaintiffs, and not Cornerstone itself, had standing to raise the claims being asserted. The court went on to hold that UIL's membership rule is no more than a de minimis burden on plaintiffs' right to educate their child and on their free exercise of religion. The court also rejected an equal protection challenge to the rule, finding that it bears a rational relationship to the state's interest in reducing unfair competition in extracurricular activities. Yesterday's San Antonio Express News reported on the decision.