In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, Acceptance Wins

On June 28th the Supreme Court decided against the Christian Legal Society (CLS) in CLS v. Martinez case (PDF). The disagreement began when the Hastings College of Law, part of the University of California system, refused to grant CLS “Registered Student Organization” (RSO) status.  RSO status allows an organization to receive school funds, use school facilities, and use the Hastings logo, among other things. This status was refused the CLS because, Hastings argued, it was not in keeping with the school’s Nondiscrimination Policy.

The Hastings chapter of the CLS began when an existing Christian RSO affiliated with a national Christian organization that charters chapters at law schools. In order to be affiliated with the national organization, a chapter must require members to sign a “Statement of Faith” and to “conduct their lives in accord with prescribed principles.” Hastings rejected CLS’s application for RSO status as the organization excludes those who engage in “‘unrepentant homosexual conduct’ or [anyone] who holds religious convictions different from those in the Statement of Faith.”

CLS filed a suit against the school, citing a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights “to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion.”  CLS also contended that the school’s anti-discrimination policy “target[s] solely those groups that organize around religious beliefs or that disapprove of particular sexual behavior, and leave other associations free to limit membership to persons committed to the group’s ideology.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the 5-4 majority, asserted that “this argument flatly contradicts the joint stipulation of facts the parties submitted at the summary-judgment stage, which specified: ‘Hastings requires that [RSOs] allow any student to participate . . . regardless of [her] status or beliefs. For example, the Hastings Democratic Caucus cannot bar students holding Republican political beliefs…’”

The Supreme Court also affirmed what the Ninth Circuit and the District Court stated, that the Hastings requirement that subsidized organizations abide by their Nondiscrimination Policy is “reasonable and viewpoint neutral.”

Despite the fact that the Supreme Court has found the Hastings Nondiscrimination Policy to be perfectly constitutional, “the Christian group said it would now go back to lower courts to prove that in fact the university did single it out for exclusion from recognized status.”

We are happy that the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the Hastings anti-discrimination requirement for RSOs. We agree with Justice Ginsburg’s opinion that the policy serves “the valid purpose of encouraging tolerance and diversity, and of refusing to subsidize discrimination.” You can read the Court’s full decision here (PDF).


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