Christian Legal Society Loses in Supreme Court Case
Group must allow leaders who disagree with its statement of faith.
In a 5-4 decision this morning, the Supreme Court said that a California law school can require a Christian group to open its leadership positions to all students, including those who disagree with the group's statement of faith.
However, the majority opinion, issued by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, gave some hope to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), which had argued that the University of California's Hastings College of the Law had selectively enforced its "all comers" policy, allowing organizations like the Latino group La Raza, to have rules restricting its leadership but not CLS. Noting that lower courts had not addressed is accusation of selective enforcement (and that the Supreme Court "is not the proper forum to air the issue in the first instance), Ginsburg said the Ninth Circuit Court could consider the argument.
This page will update throughout the day. here
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David French - ADF Senior Counsel
June 28th, 2010
Supreme Court renders a 5-4 decision against the Christian Legal Society. Justice Ginsburg is still reading from the bench, but here’s the Scotusblog summary:
The Court rules that an “all comers” policy, at least as it exists at the Hastings College of Law, is constitutionally reasonable, taking into account all of the surrounding circumstances. The opinion notes that the lower courts did not address the CLS’s argument that hastings selectively enforces its “all comers” policy. Therefore, the 9th Circuit may consider that argument if, and to the extent that, it has been preserved by CLS. In dealing with the policy, the Court’s opinion notes that it was designed to open eligibility to student organizations given access not only for membership but also for leadership.
Interestingly, rather than resolving the free association issue, the Court seems to have very narrowly decided the case — dealing with an “all-comers policy” that is virtually unique to Hastings. It appears that the Court has left open the core issue that has bedeviled student groups nationwide, the conflict between free association and nondiscrimination policies that prohibit, among other things, discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.
This is pure first blush assessment; more to come as I read through the opinion. Bottom line: a disappointing decision but one that does not come close to settling core constitutional issues on campus. In fact, it doesn’t even decide this case since it’s remanded for further proceedings. here
Added: Press release from ADF:
Supreme Court: Calif. university’s policy upheld, but school still barred from targeting Christian group
Monday, June 28, 2010
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 Monday to uphold an unusual university policy that forces student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members. The court confined its opinion to the unique policy and did not address whether nondiscrimination policies in general, which are typical on public university campuses, may require this. The court concluded that public universities may override a religious student group’s right to determine its leadership only if it denies that right to all student groups.
Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund represented a student chapter of CLS at California’s Hastings College of the Law in the lawsuit, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The suit was filed in 2004 after the law school refused to recognize the chapter because the group requires all of its officers and voting members to agree with its basic Christian beliefs. the rest