SAN DIEGO – Federal Judge Cynthia Bashant heard oral argument on Tuesday over the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund’s (FCDF) motion for a preliminary injunction against the San Diego Unified School District’s school board and superintendent. FCDF seeks a court order halting the District’s ongoing efforts with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to “address Islamophobia,” which aims to stop anti-Muslim bullying.
“When a school district divides schoolchildren along religious lines for special benefits, it undermines our Nation’s founding principles of religious freedom and equal protection. With a preliminary injunction in place, parents would no longer worry about sending their children to school exposed to a religiously discriminatory environment.”
After the District adopted the initiative in April 2017, FCDF sued on behalf of five families and two community organizations, Citizens for Quality Education San Diego and San Diego Asian Americans for Equality, arguing that the initiative is improper religious favoritism. The District claims it rescinded the Muslim policy at a school board meeting last July, but documents obtained during discovery showed that school officials were still working with CAIR. The families then filed a motion for preliminary injunction in February 2018, asking the court to halt CAIR’s activism in the district and prohibit school officials from targeting Muslim students for special attention.
“School officials have a grave responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of the children entrusted to their care. And that includes stopping bullying. But the First Amendment prohibits making a student’s religion relevant in any way in the school community. Further, partnering with a radical sectarian organization simply defies common sense.”
A preliminary injunction would take effect immediately and stay in force while FCDF’s federal civil rights lawsuit proceeds to final judgment. To obtain the injunction, the families and organizations need to prove that their underlying lawsuit was likely to succeed, that irreparable harm was likely to occur without the injunction, and that halting the District’s Islamophobia initiative is in the public interest. They also need to prove that the potential injury to them caused by allowing CAIR to advance its agenda outweighed any potential harm to the District.
At Tuesday’s oral argument, FCDF attorneys argued that the July 2017 policy change did not make the case moot—meaning that there is no live issue for the court to resolve—and that Muslim students are still receiving favorable treatment because of CAIR’s aggressive lobbying.
The case, Citizens for Quality Education San Diego, et al. v. San Diego Unified School District, et al., is in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.