Parents of some San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) students lost their bid to get a federal judge to inhibit it from working with the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund (FCDF) filed a motion for preliminary injunction on their behalf in March.
School board officials voted in April 2017 to enter into a formal partnership with CAIR but modified its plan three months later. At their July meeting, the board voted to move away from a formal partnership with CAIR and establish an intercultural committee comprised of people from different religions and communities instead. FCDF called this a "religious gerrymander" built around CAIR.
It claimed that the school district's anti-bullying/anti-Islamophobia program violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution and California state law in its motion. Parents also claimed their children suffered "irreparable harm" from favoritism shown to Muslim students.
Federal Judge Cynthia Bashant ruled Tuesday that they failed to meet the burden of proof for their objection to obtain the injunction. She wrote that the parents had not shown they were subjected to "irreparable harm" from the policy.
Bashant ruled that California's No Aid Clause never has been interpreted to "require governmental hostility to religion, nor to prohibit a religious institution from receiving an indirect, remote and incidental benefit when there exists 'a secular primary purpose.'"
She also shot down FCDF's claim that the school district placed "taxpayer money under the direction of a sectarian organization" because it did not provide evidence that CAIR directed the SDUSD's use of funds. Her ruling described the acquisition of the CAIR-recommended textbooks was consistent with California's No Aid Clause. District officials contradicted the FCDF's claim that the school district did not provide instructional materials that "address all major world religions."
Bashant noted there is no evidence to support Plaintiffs' belief that the District "lavishes" Muslim students with "benefits" not received by students of other religions.
"...[T]he Revised Policy largely blunts Plaintiffs' claims about unequal benefit or unequal benefit or 'special treatment' for Muslim students," Bashant wrote.
Her ruling says that the Establishment Clause was not violated because the Islamophobia curriculum served a secular purpose of deterring bullying. It also upheld the school district's use of the CAIR report to justify the creation of the anti-Islamophobia curriculum, saying that it was not a case in which "significant, admitted flaws in methodology" undermine the existence of a compelling interest." This was even though district statistics show that only two students in the entire school district were bullied because they were Muslim.
"The judge was going to rule against us no matter what. We are most likely going to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit, and if we get a favorable panel, then we can get an injunction pending appeal. Her analysis about the Establishment Clause is clearly wrong," FCDF Executive Director Dan Piedra told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT).