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. gerardo custodio

    Eddie, hey hope you're having a good day... Its obvious to me that you tend to talk more than you think, but most on this blog do, so, yay!, You're part of the majority. I read an earlier statement you directed at MJ saying that you would like to see some evidence of a contemporary of JESUS. In that same post you correctly cited the dates of the writings of the gospels and the historical accounts by josephus. First off the gospels are matthew mark luke and john, matthew and john wrote first hand accounts of the life and times of JESUS, mark was assitant to peter the disciple of JESUS and luke was a physician to the apostle paul who was taught under the 11 remaining disciples of JESUS. You asked for contemporaries you got 4 that you mention all on your own. Now josephus, keep in mind the time and culture that we are speaking of, the ancient hebrew culture had an excellent oral tradition just like other world cultures, they had presise methods of passing along historical accounts and details specially considering that among the jewish community of the day JESUS was a rabbi his teachings were written by his followers in note form much like students take notes in lectures today, these writings would have been highly respected they were the words of their rabbi, this would have been the case for all rabbis and followers/students of the time. Jesephus as a historian to that age and location would have been able to research his account of JESUS with individuals who had walked with JESUS seen him heard him people who knew him, he would speak in the local synagogue therefore his community would recognize him. Read a little don't be ignorant like the rest of these...

    June 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ProudAmerican

    Separation of church and state is found nowhere in our laws. In fact, our forefathers believed in "In God we trust" and "one nation under God" We are grossly overusing the separation of church and state phrase. No, government cannot tell you who or how to worship, but without God being involved in our government we have no laws! Our forefathers based everything they believed on the laws of God and His Word!

    June 29, 2010 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10