UC Hastings Throws Down: Defeats Christian Legal Society in U.S. Supreme Court

Remember that whole thing with U.C. Hastings (the largest and oldest law school in the West) getting into it with the Christian Legal Society? Well, it’s over, with Hastings winning in a 5-4 decision.

(That means that there will be one less thing for incoming Dean Frank H. Wu to worry about when he takes over on July 1.)

Get all the deets, here and below, and see what the CLS has to say, after the jump, and oh, here’s a nice take already from fast-working Bob Egelko.

The flag of Victory, or something, flying above The Tower at 100 McAllister:

U.S. Supreme Court Affirms UC Hastings’ Policy in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, et al. Decision

The Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, et al., signifying an important win in the country’s highest court for the College’s policy on recognition of student organizations and for higher education generally.

In the ruling authored by Justice Ginsburg, the decision stated: “Compliance with Hastings’ all-comers policy, we conclude, is a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the student-organization forum.”

“We are very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision.  The College’s intent has always been to ensure the leadership, educational and social opportunities afforded by officially recognized student organizations are available to all students attending public institutions.  The Court’s ruling validates our policy, which is rooted in equity and fairness,” said Leo Martinez, Acting Chancellor and Dean, Hastings College of the Law.  

Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer and Sotomayor joined.  Justices Stevens and Kennedy joined the majority opinion in full and filed concurring opinions.  Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas joined.  

COURT’S DECISION:        Available at http://www.supremecourt.gov/

BRIEFS:        Available at http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/april2010.shtml

As promised, the Christians Speak, after the jump.

ALLIANCE DEFENSE FUND / CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY NEWS RELEASE June 28, 2010 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Supreme Court: Calif. university’s policy upheld, but school still barred from targeting Christian group
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 

WASHINGTON
In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups…. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.” Twenty-two friend-of-the-court briefs from a broad and diverse array of nearly 100 parties were filed with the Supreme Court in support of the CLS chapter, including a brief filed by 14 state attorneys general. Lead counsel Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued before the court on April 19 on behalf of the CLS chapter.
— The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 Monday to uphold an unusual university policy that forces student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members. The court confined its opinion to the unique policy and did not address whether nondiscrimination policies in general, which are typical on public university campuses, may require this. The court concluded that public universities may override a religious student group’s right to determine its leadership only if it denies that right to all student groups. Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund represented a student chapter of CLS at California’s Hastings College of the Law in the lawsuit, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The suit was filed in 2004 after the law school refused to recognize the chapter because the group requires all of its officers and voting members to agree with its basic Christian beliefs. “All college students, including religious students, should have the right to form groups around shared beliefs without being banished from campus,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel at the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “Today’s ruling, however, will have limited impact. We are not aware of any other public university that has the exact same policy as Hastings.” “The conflict still exists. This decision doesn’t settle the core constitutional issue of whether nondiscrimination policies in general can force religious student groups to allow non-believers to lead their groups,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Long-term, the decision puts other student groups across the country at risk, and we will continue to fight for their constitutional rights. The Hastings policy actually requires CLS to allow atheists to lead its Bible studies and the College Democrats to accept the election of Republican officers in order for the groups to be recognized on campus. We agree with Justice Alito in his dissent that the court should have rejected this as absurd.” The law school’s acting dean went so far as to state in a PBS interview in April that a black student organization must admit white supremacists. “We believe we will ultimately prevail in this case,” McConnell said. “The record will show that Hastings law school applied its policy in a discriminatory way–excluding CLS from campus but not other groups who limit leadership and voting membership in a similar way. The Supreme Court did not rule that public universities can apply different rules to religious groups than they apply to political, cultural, or other student groups.”
 
 

 

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2 Responses to “UC Hastings Throws Down: Defeats Christian Legal Society in U.S. Supreme Court”

  1. SF JD Candidate says:

    What a difference a perspective makes. CLS claims, “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 Monday to uphold an unusual university policy that forces student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members.”
    Luckily the court, other than the predictable protect-religion-at-all-costs Alito, Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas quartet, sees that the Hastings policy prevents discrimination. CLS’s claim that people who don’t share the philosophy of the group could join and become officers is ridiculous–why would an atheist or a homosexual (both of which CLS banned) join a group that would be unfriendly to them? And why should the school fund such an organization with money contributed from all students (Hastings funds up to 100% of an organization’s events), including those who are banned?

  2. Wade A. Tisthammer says:

    “CLS’s claim that people who don’t share the philosophy of the group could join and become officers is ridiculous–why would an atheist or a homosexual (both of which CLS banned) join a group that would be unfriendly to them?”

    First, you don’t have to be unfriendly to disagree with someone. Second, atheists and homosexuals were permitted to join the organization as a general participant; the restriction was that they could not be a voting member of that organization. Third, it’s not hard to conceive of a motive for non-Christians to join such a group as a voting member. Imagine some non-Christians who don’t like Christianity very much outnumber those Christians who want to be a part of the club, and these non-Christians want to take the organization over (possible rationalization: those Christians are a bunch of intolerant people, and so they deserve to have their club reformed by enlightened folks).

    Regardless of how often such a scenario would happen, the policy of forcing a group to accept leaders or voting members who don’t subscribe to the values of an organization (whether that organization be political or religious) seems a tad ridiculous. Couldn’t a Democrat group, for example, rightfully exclude ultra-conservatives from being leaders or voting members on the grounds that they do not subscribe to the group’s values? What if some ultra-conservatives subverted a Democrat club via sheer numbers as a result of such a forced-voting-member-acceptance policy, turning it into a de facto Republican group? Would liberals still find the policy palatable? I doubt it, and this leads to another point: other groups have belief-requirements (presumably Hastings Democrats has a few at least de facto ones), yet it is only the Christian organization that had their registration rejected, as Judge Alito noted in his dissent.

    If we permit anyone to become a voting member of any group regardless of beliefs, belief-centered groups become almost vacuous. It makes perfect sense to permit a Democratic group to require its voting members be Democrats; it makes perfect sense to tolerate a Muslim group’s rule for the voting members to be Muslim. In short, it’s quite sensible to allow organizations impose the requirement of subscribing to the group’s values in order to be a voting member.

    “And why should the school fund such an organization with money contributed from all students (Hastings funds up to 100% of an organization’s events), including those who are banned?”

    The idea that students who don’t agree with a view are paying Hastings, which in turn funds certain organizations that champion that view, isn’t unique to Christians. For example, I doubt every student at Hastings is a Democrat, and yet we have Hastings Democrats as a registered organization. It seems unfair to (again) single out Christians.