FALLBROOK — Warriors for Christ and Fallbrook High School won't be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on student religious groups, except to know that what they're already doing is OK with the legal system.
The student religious discussion group has been meeting at Fallbrook High School for more than 20 years, even after an unidentified Fallbrook resident protested the use of school facilities for religious purposes. And now it has the high court ruling that religious groups have the same rights to use school property as any other extracurricular group.
"The (Supreme Court) decision will not affect us at all," Robert Thomas, superintendent of the Fallbrook Union High School District, said Monday. "This is upholding the actions we have already taken."
Thomas said he helped form the group more than 20 years ago, when he was principal of Fallbrook High.
When a Fallbrook woman, whom school officials have not identified, challenged the Warriors for Christ status as a school-sponsored activity last fall, the district sought a legal ruling from the county counsel's office.
Deputy County Counsel Ralph Shadwell ruled that: "While a school cannot sponsor a religious group, it must allow students to meet" on campus.
Warriors for Christ lost its school sponsor, math teacher Jay Craven, its affiliation with the school's Associated Student Body and its place in the school yearbook under Shadwell's ruling, which was confirmed Monday by the Supreme Court.
"There was some misunderstanding at the time this first came up last fall that I had said the group could not meet on campus," Thomas said, "but that was not true. We just had to remove the school sponsorship. That was the law. This ruling just upholds everything that we have done."
Thomas said his greatest concern about the ruling is that "it opens the door for others" such as youth supremacist groups.
But Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor noted that federal law allows school authorities to ban disruptive groups from campus.
Craven stepped down as official school sponsor of the group last year, but has continued as informal mentor to the group, allowing it to meet in his classroom during lunch breaks or after school to conduct Bible-study sessions or hear speakers.
"We knew if the decision went against us, we would have to move off campus," Craven said Monday. "The decision just legalizes what we're doing."
Stephen Thorne, spokesman for the San Diego chapter of American Atheists, said he was satisfied with the Supreme Court ruling.
"They didn't pick my pocket or break my leg," Thorne said. "What they are doing (in Fallbrook) seems correct to me."
Unless the religious group is "taking something away from the other students, like occupying a bench and keeping others out," there is no conflict with the doctrine of separation of church and state, he said.