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LEGAL DIGEST: McRaney files appeal; FCA chapter reinstated after discrimination

McRaney appeals NAMB suit dismissal

OXFORD, Miss. (BP) – Will McRaney is appealing the Aug. 17 decision dismissing his case against the North American Mission Board. McRaney, former executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCMD), charged that statements made by NAMB leaders defamed him and influenced his 2015 termination from the BCMD.

“It is our view that the judge’s ruling is built around the erroneous concepts of ‘THE’ Baptist Church as a denomination like the Catholic or Methodist Church,” McRaney said in a statement on his Facebook page on Sept. 13. “However, the first amendment clearly declares that the government cannot create or establish a religion.”

McRaney filed the appeal in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Mississippi on Sept. 12.

In a statement, NAMB said: “To be clear, nothing in the District Court’s decision to dismiss this lawsuit diminishes church autonomy, voluntary cooperation, or any other Baptist doctrinal distinctive. On the contrary, the ruling expressly upholds the freedom of every Southern Baptist church and ministry to practice these doctrines free from government interference. The dismissal was grounded in these Constitutional rights.”

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2017, alleges NAMB wrongly influenced his separation of employment from the BCMD in 2015. The suit also claims NAMB personnel engaged in “slander and/or libel” of McRaney and attempted to interfere with his speaking engagements after he left the state convention.

NAMB has consistently denied the allegations. McRaney’s case has been dismissed twice since 2017.

Appeals court rules San Jose school district discriminated against FCA chapter

SAN JOSE, Calif. (BP) – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a  local chapter of a Christian club that meets on public high school campuses nationwide.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes sponsors nearly 20,000 Bible studies and small groups (called “huddles”) at schools around the world. In 2019, the San Jose Unified School District ruled that the group, which had been meeting in San Jose schools for more than a decade, could no longer operate in the district due to FCA’s policy of choosing leaders only from those that agree with the organization’s religious teachings.

According to Becket, a religious liberty group that helped FCA with the case, a teacher at Pioneer High School in San Jose attacked the group’s Christian beliefs in his classroom as well as in emails to the school’s principal. The teacher went so far as to say FCA’s presence on the campus was tantamount to sexual harassment.

The appeals court’s ruling effectively allows the school’s FCA chapter to be reinstated.

“While it cannot be overstated that anti-discrimination policies certainly serve worthy causes,” the ruling says, “… those policies may not themselves be utilized in a manner that transgresses or supersedes the government’s constitutional commitment to be steadfastly neutral to religion. …

“The District, rather than treating FCA like comparable secular student groups whose membership was limited based on criteria including sex, race, ethnicity, and gender identity, penalized it based on its religious beliefs.”

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