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Christian school forfeits football game against team with girls on the roster (again)
"Football is a violent game,” said the head of Valley Christian Academy in defense of his faith-based sexism
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Valley Christian Academy, a religious school in Santa Maria, California, has forfeited a football game rather than play an opposing team that has girls on the roster. It’s the fourth time in three years they’ve done something like this, according to the Santa Maria Times, and the second time in two years they’ve done it against this particular team.
When they refused to play last year, it arguably affected their standings. The same may be true this season:
With the 2022 forfeit, the [VCA] Lions gave up their chance for an outright [Coast Valley League] title in a game, judging by past results, VCA would have been heavily favored to win. The Lions wound up 3-1 in the CVL and notched a three-way share of the league title with Coast Union and Cuyama Valley.
Judging by past results, the Lions would have been heavily favored against the Broncos as well last Saturday night. As it is, VCA has not played a game since its Sept. 16 non-league win at Cate.
This isn’t a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. It’s a high school football game. The Christian school took the automatic loss and moved on. Their opponents took the automatic win and said nothing more. It’s almost surprising how normalized this has become.
At least last year, the opposing team’s coaches defended the girls on their team and rightly criticized the Christian school for depriving students of a good competition:
“I am upset with VCA’s decision, especially because [Emily Reed and Andrea Aguilar] are being singled out for their gender,” Bronco Head Coach Andrew Crosby said in an email.
“It’s not fair,” he continued, “and I hope that because of the support of their families, the team, and community, that they can have confidence that we support them.”
Crosby emphasized that the team would “not consider either of them sitting out. They are part of our team and will suit up for every game. It’s difficult because you want to explain to them that it’s not their fault. …”
That’s how you do it. Hell, I wish every team playing VCA showed some solidarity by adding girls to their rosters just to ensure a victory before kickoff. (Reed and Aguilar are both still on the roster this year.)
But this isn’t just about ethics. The Christian school’s actions may also be illegal.
In 2021, they also refused to play a team that had a girl on it. The two sides scrimmaged against each other without a problem, but after that practice game ended and the players took off their helmets, the Christian school realized one of their opponents was a girl. The coaches and administrators allegedly “glared at [the player] while shaking their heads in disbelief.” VCA later sent that school a letter stating that the female player wouldn’t be permitted to compete on their campus.
That girl’s family later sued VCA for violating state and federal rights (along with “infliction of emotional distress”). Specifically, they said refusing to play a game because there are girls on the other team violated Title IX, the federal law that prohibits gender-based discrimination in sports. The California Interscholastic Federation says all member schools must abide by Title IX, making this a state issue as well. That lawsuit was finally settled this past August with the Christian school having to pay $20,000 in legal fees to the girl and her attorneys. (It moved forward because a judge ruled that the Christian school was subject to Title IX requirements because it received PPP funding from the government. They couldn’t accept federal funding but reject federal rules.)
Beyond the legal problems, however, look at how the school defended its position by citing their faith. It’s safe to assume their beliefs haven’t changed since they said this in 2021:
“In our handbook, one of our clearly defined boundaries is, ‘There is to be no physical contact between boys and girls at Valley Christian Academy.'”
He added that they train their boys to “rigorously to admire and value women as precious and worthy of respect.”
“Football is a violent game, and we understand the value of such in training our young men within the boundaries of an organized sport,” [lead pastor and school superintendent for VCA Joel] Mikkelson wrote. “However, because of the nature of its contact, we will not play a team that has a female as part of its football team.”
You see, they want to spare the women-folk from being tackled because it’s disrespectful… even though it’s far more disrespectful to deny those girls a chance to display their skills on the field. The school also wants to make sure Christian boys don’t catch cooties… even though the uniform and padding and helmets would presumably prevent students from actually “touching” each other.
It’s so on-point for a conservative Christian school to act like a contact sport is equivalent to something sexual. It’s an incredibly condescending move by the Christian school to pretend those female athletes don’t know what they signed up for when they obviously had enough talent to make it onto their teams. To quote an editorial in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, Valley Christian Academy wanted a girl to trade “her helmet and pads for a spoon and apron.”
While forfeiting the game is much better than whining about alleged persecution, there’s a simple solution here: The Christian school shouldn’t be allowed to compete against anyone. If it doesn’t want to abide by the rules, then it shouldn’t get to play against real teams. The students can just play practice games against each other.
It shouldn’t be a huge adjustment considering they already live in a Christian bubble.
All of this is happening while, just two weeks ago, Haley Van Voorhis of Shenandoah University became the first female non-kicker to play in a college football game. While the NCAA moves forward, Valley Christian Academy remains stuck in the past. I sincerely hope the girls on the other football teams never volunteer to stay on the bench during a game out of “respect” to the Christian school.
No one should feel bad for Valley Christian Academy. If the coaches refuse to allow their team to compete in a sport for petty, misogynistic, faith-based reasons, they shouldn’t be rewarded for it, and there’s ample reason to think they should be punished for it by being kicked out of the conference altogether.
We’ve seen similar sexist stances taken by a Catholic school in Pennsylvania, a Christian wrestler in Colorado, and an Islamic soccer team in Ontario. They either raised a fuss about competing against women or they forfeited a competition as if they were religious martyrs.
None of them are martyrs. In this case, the coaches are Christian cowards who don’t understand the nature of competition.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)
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