Christian student group in Supreme Court to overturn exclusion by California university

Sam Casey, general counsel for Advocates International.
Sam Casey, general counsel for Advocates International.


A Christian student organization is seeking to overturn a court ruling that sided with a California university which denied recognition to the group because of its statement of faith.

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) was denied recognition by the University of California's Hastings College of Law because of the group's statement of faith, which prevents anyone who is “unrepentantly” engaging “in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman” from being a group leader or member.

UC Hastings charged that this provision violates the school's ban on “sexual orientation” discrimination despite the fact that CLS's statement of faith is based on the conduct of members of any sexual orientation and not on one's “immutable status.”

In September of 2004, CLS asked UC Hastings if the group could be exempt from the religion and sexual orientation sections of the university's nondiscrimination policy. Adhering to those sections of the policy, claimed CLS chapter members, would force the group to admit members and elect leaders who held beliefs and engaged in conduct contrary to the mission and purpose of the group.

Sam Casey, General Counsel for Advocates International (AI), a Christian organization that helps represent law students globally, told EWTN News that contrary to some media reports, CLS did not claim in their statement of faith that homosexuals were not allowed membership.

Casey explained that the issue was in practicing chastity and not engaging in sexual activity unless it took place within a marriage between a man and a woman. According to Casey, the university claimed that CLS was violating sexual orientation discrimination policies because it defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

The school refused CLS's request for exemption and subsequently stripped the chapter of recognition, including funding for student activity fees. In October of 2004, CLS filed a lawsuit against university officials.

In 2006, a district court ruled in favor of the university, which prompted CLS to appeal the decision. In March of 2009, a panel in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated that UC Hastings College of Law acted in accordance with the constitution in denying recognition to CLS.

In May of 2009, CLS filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision.

“Ninth Circuit's decision should deeply alarm all who care about the rights of those holding minority viewpoints on America's campuses, as it will make nearly every campus group vulnerable to takeover and dissolution by its enemies if it is adopted by the Supreme Court,” said Sam Ericsson, president of Advocates International on Sunday.

Ericsson, along with AI's, Sam Casey, said on Sunday that “if student organizations cannot require that their leaders and voting members actually share the group's viewpoints, freedom of association on college campuses will be stripped of all meaning.”

“If we are to have meaningful freedom of association on college campuses, individual students must have the right to form groups around shared beliefs – and the state must not be able to dictate what those groups' beliefs should be.”

Oral arguments before the Supreme Court commenced on Monday, April 19. The case will be closely watched because it involves religion, education and homosexuality.

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