June 28th, 2010
10:38 AM ET

Court rules against Christian group in discrimination case

The Supreme Court has ruled against a Christian campus group that sued after a California law school denied it official recognition because the student organization limits its core membership to those who share its beliefs on faith and marriage.

At issue was the conflict between a public university's anti-discrimination policies and a private group's freedom of religion and association.

The 5-4 ruling was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who was on the bench a day after her husband passed away.

The law school, wrote Ginsburg, "caught in the crossfire between a group's desire to exclude and students' demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership."

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, "I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that today's decision is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country." He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote in this contentious case.

The Christian Legal Society - which has chapters around the country - had sought official recognition from the University of California's law school in San Francisco. The 30-member group is still in existence, even after its application was rejected five years ago.

Any student may attend the group's meetings, but voting members and officers must affirm a "statement of faith," that includes the belief "Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman," according to the society's website.

The school says that leads to discrimination which, under law, it cannot sanction.

The court drew sharp lines over how far both the school and the student group must go to claim "institutional autonomy" in their respective policies, and to satisfy conflicting First Amendment claims of free speech and association.

Lawyers for the group say members should have the discretion to hold their own views and ensure their campus leaders share similar religious ideas.

They told the court that the school, Hastings College of the Law, had singled them out for rejection, while recognizing other groups that limit membership to those of shared beliefs.

But the school cited its policy as the main reason for turning down the group's application, saying it should be open to all. The school said the "statement of faith" would essentially keep gays and lesbians from joining.

Groups given official endorsement by the University of California can receive school funding, office space and the freedom to recruit on campus, but may not reject anyone because of sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or other criteria protected under federal and state law.

The case could have broader applications for so-called "charitable choice" programs, where religion-based groups provide social services, often with federal funding. Such a group's tax exemptions and hiring practices could be affected by how the justices apply the law in this school dispute.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco last year ruled against the student group. But a similar lawsuit against Southern Illinois University two years ago was successful, and the Christian Legal Society received official recognition there.

The case was Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Martinez (08-1371).

soundoff (340 Responses)
  1. boboh

    yea! No more racist Black Only student groups!

    June 28, 2010 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. George Mead

    If this group had been Muslim, the Court would have ruled the other way...

    June 28, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      you could not say, you are not them. You do have the right to believe what you do.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. In Science We Trust

    Suppose I want University recognition of a religious club that prohibits Blacks because it believes Blacks are descended from a cursed character in the Bible and thus cursed by God. P.S., this is what the Mormons believed until recently. So should I be able to discriminate just because I have a nutty religious belief? THAT'S the dangerous view held by 4 ultra-conservative justices.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • ronport

      Those who believe in evoluation hold that human life originated in Africa and that blacks came before whites, and that monkeys came before that. If that isn't a racist, arrogant position held by those who claim to uphold science what is? Before you acuse others take a look at yourself.

      June 28, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alverant

      ronport, you REALLY don't know anything about human evolution do you? If you did, you wouldn't be making such ignorant statements.

      June 28, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Laura

    What makes a Christian group discriminating against non-christians different from a black sorority discriminating against non-blacks or a hispanic fraternity discriminating against non-hispanics? If we could eliminate all discrimination from college campuses, that'd be nice.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • eddie

      public funding

      June 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. pat

    Hooray for the court. At last a ruling that makes sense.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Paul T

    Separation of Church vs. State is being used as a tool by the ungodly of this country to undermine the rights of the godly. When I say godly, I do not mean those who are practicing holiness, but those who seek righteousness. When we as Americans continue down the road of throwing the God of the Bible out of our public places, He will take His hand of protection away from our public places. Those of us who follow the Bible's teachings need to stand and be counted regardless of the politically incorrect consequences.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • stejo

      I'm so grateful that the God I worship is a God of Love, not a vindictive a**h*le like yours.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      it's a big myth bro, youre wasting your time.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. Steve

    If I formed a baseball club and some people showed up to the games and wanted to play soccer in the outfield and not participate in baseball should they be in the club? Or should white supremacists be allowed in African American student clubs and say whatever they want at club meetings and the club not be able to kick them out? This ruling is nonsense and a recipe for disaster.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • matt

      you are talking teams not clubs...soccer players on a baseball field is an issue. A gay christian (yes they do exist) should not be denied membership by a "christian" club that is being paid for with some of the gay christians student funds. The hateful christers can meet with who they like and be hateful ...they just shouldn't expect to be hateful with other peoples money.

      June 28, 2010 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  8. THThite

    Wah I have jesus on my side, we're sure to win this case

    baww satan must have gotten hold of the judge, that must be why we got ruled against

    June 28, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JEff B

    Question:
    If a Christian club cant refuse to admit people who do not agree with this stance on faith and marriage, it then obviously cant refuse to let THAT member speak out during the meetings on their views.
    Does that mean that a Christian CHURCH must let Muslims have their say on the pulpit preaching the precepts of Islam ?

    June 28, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • VA Nick

      A Christian church does not receive tax payer $, so the answer is no.

      June 28, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Paul T

    Separation of Church vs. State is being used as a tool by the ungodly of this country to undermine the rights of the godly. When I say godly, I do not mean those who are practicing holiness, but those who seek righteousness. When we as Americans continue down the road of throwing the God of the Bible out of our public places, He will take His hand of protection away from our public places. Those of us who follow the Bible's teachings need to stand and be counted regardless of the politically incorrect consequences.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Paul T

    Thank you, Justice Samuel Alito, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
    Thank you for standing for what is right.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dustin

      You mean "wrong"

      June 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • eddie

      I second Dustin, completely "wrong"

      June 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Miruna

    http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_christian_fascists_are_growing_stronger_20100607/

    June 28, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. In Science We Trust

    It's AMUSING to realize that IF the ruling had gone the other way, a SCIENCE CLUB would be allowed to discriminate against anyone who believed in the GOD FANTASY, and could required any prospective members to sign an agreement that they adhere to the SCIENTIFIC METHOD and do not believe in any silly invisible magic spirits who live in the sky. Of course, we can't expect these ultra-right wing justices to consider THAT possibility – they just want to promote religion.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Curious

      Well, a Science Club would not have as its fundamental ideology the exclusion of religious beliefs. There are tons of religious faithful in all fields of science. But if the Atheist Club wanted to make such an exclusion, that would be fine. Fund them all. If you fund a Christian religious group and also fund other religious groups you are not establishing a religion. But if you won't fund any religious groups but only non-religious ones you are actually discriminating against a particular viewpoint (all religious ones) and that has routinely been rejected at a Supreme Court level.

      June 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronport

      Science and religion are only mutually exclusive to the truly ignorant. If a 'Science' group included in its core tenets unbelief in God it wouldn't truly be scientific would it, because presupposition of the unproven is not science.

      June 28, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul T

    Poor decision. It's now time for every christian to become a member of any gay rights group and start preaching against the sin within the group. And to speak at their rallies...hey, it's backed by the supreme liberal court....why not?

    June 28, 2010 at 11:35 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dustin

      They can and do already.

      June 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ben

    look at Iraq ,Afganistan and Pakistan. Would allowing bombs to every one make it more secure?
    It is a foolish arguement that allowing guns to the population will keep us secure.

    June 28, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.