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. Silas Scarborough

    It's not lack of tolerance that results in annoyance when Christians ram their beliefs down my throat, it's indigestion. All these little Ayatollah wannabes running around and they're as annoying as a kid with a boombox and for the same reason: they all sound exactly the same.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Joe

    Any student group is allowed to form... as long as it follows the atheistic beliefs of the school.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • You're kidding, right?

      Congrats, you just proved that you have absolutely zero understanding of what this case was about.

      If you get public funding, you cannot discriminate. Simple as that.

      June 28, 2010 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ed Maubach

    America is on the rotisserie of our existance of life, and because we are too frightened to stand for our rights, "AND WE ARE ALMOST DONE!"

    June 28, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Freedom

    I guess this means guys can join sororities, women can join fraternities. All bathrooms must be shared. Dorms must be shared. Etc..... You get the point. Watch out what you ask for as it does open pandora’s box. Freedom of speech means exactly that...FREEDOM of speech (or does it). I get to decide (me the government).

    June 28, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      You rode the short bus to school. Nothing you said makes any sense.

      June 28, 2010 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Travis

    AFTER reading most of the comments here, I see that most of you just don't get it...The group was suing to get funds from a PUBLIC university. Said university told the group no, based on the fact that GROUP discriminates...GROUP takes fight to Supreme Court. Court says in order to recieve PUBLIC funds GROUP can not be discriminatory...THE END. It's not about hating Christians or anny other group EXCEPT for on the GROUPS part. THEY will not allow you entrance in the group if you don't believe what they believe exactly to the letter. A group that wants PUBLIC funds can not discriminate, PERIOD. HERE is an EXAMPLE: KKK wants funding from the government, KKK is denied funding because they DISCRIMINATE against anyone who is not a WHITE CHRISTIAN, They can not get FUNDED because of the discriminatory behavior. Not because they are christian and not because they are stupid to begin with. PLAIN AND SIMPLE, they discriminate therefore they can not be PUBLICLY FUNDED. SAME as any other group who discriminates.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. JR

    How loud would this Christian group scream if an Atheist group required members to denounce God and religion?

    June 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victoria

      They woudn't say d darn thing becasuse they would not want wo join, dumb questioon

      June 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Common Sense

    It is amazing how the blind syas they're glad Christians are losing ground when we see wars, storms like never before, celebrities passing as never before and the church being persecuted like never before...allprophesies of the Bible...but we're losing ground. People don't be fooled God has a very witty way of showing that He's incharge. This group should realize that with or without public funding if God is for them, he will always ensure their mission is accomplished.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. LINDY

    VICTORIA – CHILL! NO ONE SAID YOU CANNOT DISCRIMINATE ON A PERSONAL LEVEL AND FROM THE SOUND OF IT YOU DISCRIMINATE A LOT. YOU JUST CAN'T DO IT AND EXPECT TO BE FUNDED BY THE VERY PEOPLE YOU'RE DISCRIMINATING AGAINST. READ THE WHOLE STORY NEXT TIME.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victoria

      Why not? It's my money too. The Federal Gov. does not havee any money. they produce nothing!

      June 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ev.Dwayne Gobin (Have FB profile; willing to come to your church anytime).

    I have read half the page of comments and decided not to read anymore of it. why?
    1.) I am a Christian which means that if it ever were to happen, I would be persecuted for my beliefs because Jesus was persecuted as well (John 15:20(NASB) 20“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also). We must remember, that originally, the word Christian was meant as a derogatory word to refer to those who were following in "The Way". Originally, it was called, "The Way" instead of Christian (Acts 19:9(NASB) 9But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus); because Christ said that He was "the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (John 14:6(NASB) 6Jesus said* to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me).
    2.) The Apostle Paul called satan "The god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4(NASB) 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God); and we must remember we may be in this world but are not of it (John 15:19(NASB) 19“If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.) . True, this nation was built on godly principles and it held the Bible in high esteem (“A Bible and a Newspaper in every house, a good school in every district-all studied and appreciated as they merit-are the principle support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.” . . . Benjamin Franklin; “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible” . . . George Washington).
    3.) Instead of us getting upset because the world is getting more evil by the second, we need to go out and really preach the Gospel and baptizing in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20(NASB) 18And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”).
    4.) To those who are Atheists: I am sad for you, because you believe that there is neither a God or a devil. One day you will die and find out that you were wrong and find yourself alone to burn forever and ever. That may sound harsh to you, but it is the truth. There is a God and He is the Almighty God and Creator of this world. Why is there so much evil in this world? Because Adam forfeited his rights to this place when he disobeyed God and ate of the forbidden fruit. Because Adam sinned, sin was allowed into this world and therefore satan has right to this world until Christ comes back and then look out! There is a Christ and His name is Jesus. He is the only Way to God and the only WAY to Heaven. Please, repent of your sin which is unbelief and believe in the one who died on the cross so that you may be forgiven of all of your sins. Accept Jesus and and accept God as your father because that is what G wants to be to each and every one of us is our Father.
    4.) To those who believe in a god but not the true God: Also, do I feel sad for you as well. There is no other religion or any other god that will lead you to a wonderful eternity. We have a choice to either do whatever we want to until we physically die and then eternally rot forever in a isolated and lonely place burning forever or, we can embrace Christ as God's Son and realize that God is Just and that Jesus is the only way to living eternally with God. Please, time is getting shorter and we do not know when our last breath will occur. Please accept Jesus because He gave His life for you (John 3:14-21(NASB) 14“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever £believes will in Him have eternal life. 16“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”).
    5.) I prayed before writing this and never dreamed that this comment response would ever be as long as it is. I asked Gthe Lord to guide me on what to write and this is the result; including all of the Bible verses.
    May God bless you in every way imaginable so that you may see the error of your ways and taste the Goodness of the Lord (Psalms 34:8(NASB) 8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!).

    June 28, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Fail, you wrote number 4 twice. Go Atheism!!!!

      June 28, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Adam

    This is a bad ruling. It's shocking how many people view this as a blow to religious groups, when really it's a civil right's limit on all of us. I heard that the local gay group on campus was supporting the Christians because, under this ruling, they are discriminating as well.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rodboy

    Life changes all the time and usually not for the better. California, does not have any tax dollars anyway, when they go broke it will be for the best.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wilson

    Nobody infringed on this groups absolute right to express their opinion, they are free to keep on spewing bigotry and hatred – they just don't get funding for it. I'm sure some church/ kkk group will be happy to give them some blood money.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victoria

      You Mr. Wilson are not very bright. Why in the world would NON Christians WANT to join a Christian group except to cause trouble. And yeah, boys should be allowed to join Sororities and girls join Fraternaties. Another DUMB idea. I say no Federal dollars to anyone. Since the Feds have NO MONEY it can stay in my/your pockets and we spend it as we choose!

      June 28, 2010 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  13. pkfops

    Great. Every time I sat down for a smoke when I was going to school, some christian nut job would come sit next to me and try to recruit or save me. It's about time these Wackos get reined in.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Victoria

      hey dude, wake up you can notsmoke inside anymore cause you are eing discriminted against

      June 28, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • pkfops

      That was back in 1970's; I don't smoke anymore. The story just reminded me of how irritating those groups were. I was on the GI bill and could hardly put up with the fairytale view of the world these little punks were trying to push.

      June 28, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Dennis

    In reply to Bill's stupid comment above with some of the Founding Father's comments that seem less favorable toward religion:

    “God grant that not only the love of liberty but a thorough knowledge of the rights of man may pervade all the nations of the earth, so that a philosopher may set his foot anywhere on its surface and say, This is my country." – Benjamin Franklin

    “the settlement of America […] is the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth" – John Adams

    "To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed, but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself. I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be." Thomas Jefferson

    June 28, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Carlton

    Those of us who really know and believe in Jesus Christ and are not religious need to unite in the spirit of love, oneness, fellowship, prayer, authority and power!!! Once we do this we'll see the glory of GOD manifiested and the works of the devil destroyed on the earth!!! Many people have allowed religion to cause some much division and have pushed so many people away. Whenever anyone comes into a true spiritual reality and relationship with the only true and living GOD, they can't be disuaded, lured away, or turned off otherwise!!! It's called personally knowing GOD for yourself!!!

    Pastor Evans

    June 28, 2010 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
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