In a 5-4 decision the Supreme Court has ruled that California’s public universities can deny recognition and funding to a Christian legal club that denied membership to gay students.
The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” as being inconsistent with that faith. But Hastings, which is in San Francisco, said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation. The court on a 5-4 judgment upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group’s First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college’s nondiscrimination policy.
In his dissent, Justice Alito called the decision a “serious setback for freedom of expression.”
Lambda Legal: “CLS was attempting to draw a distinction between status and conduct. But when an organization has a membership requirement that one must believe conduct central to one’s identity is immoral, that’s the same thing as excluding people for who they are. It’s wrong of CLS to expect students to fund a group that wouldn’t have them as a member. The Court wisely rejected CLS’s attempt to obtain what the Court recognized as ‘preferential, not equal treatment’ under the school’s rules applicable to all other recognized clubs.”
NGLTF: “The Supreme Court ruled correctly in rejecting the challenge from the Christian Legal Society, which sought school funding and recognition despite being in clear violation of the college’s nondiscrimination policy. The court rightly found that the First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by Hastings’ decision. It simply said the college did not have to fund a group that violated the school policy requiring all recognized student groups to be open to every student. Schools all across the country are working to create welcoming environments for all students. This ruling supports that important effort. No school group or organization should be given public money to discriminate against other students.”