WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether a California law school violated the constitutional rights of a Christian group by denying it recognition as an official campus organization because it excludes gays and lesbians.
The justices agreed to intervene in a case that pits anti-discrimination policies common on college campuses against freedoms of religion and association.
The Christian Legal Society at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law requires officers and voting members to share their religious beliefs, including that “Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
The group filed a federal law suit after the San Francisco law school refused to accord it official status. The school said all official campus groups, which are eligible for funding and other benefits, may not exclude people because of religious belief, sexual orientation and other reasons.
Federal courts in San Francisco rejected the group’s assertions that the law school’s policy violated its freedoms of speech, religion and association. The justices agreed to hear the group’s appeal and argument will take place in the spring.
The 30-member Hastings group was told in 2004 that it was denied recognition because of its policy of exclusion.
“The court below got it wrong and we’re trusting that the Supreme Court will correct this,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel with the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom.
According to a society news release, it invites all students to its meetings.
“However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith,” the statement said. “CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”
Colby said that means the group simply “requires that their leaders share their religious beliefs.”
The Christian Legal Society has chapters at universities nationwide. The group has sued other universities on the same grounds.
It won at Southern Illinois University, whether the university settled with the group in 2007 and recognized its membership and leadership policies.
The case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371.