Magazine article The Christian Century

High Court Rules against Christian Club on Campus

Magazine article The Christian Century

High Court Rules against Christian Club on Campus

Article excerpt

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a Christian student group must accept gays and non-Christians as members if it wants to be officially recognized by a public university.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court's 5-4 majority, said June 28 that the "all-comers" policy at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law is "reasonable" and "viewpoint neutral."

The case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, pitted a campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society against the law school's nondiscrimination policy that requires registered student organizations to accept any student as a member or potential leader. Registered student groups receive limited funding from the school, which is supported by public tax dollars.

The law school had argued successfully in lower courts that the Christian group was seeking special treatment in seeking an exemption from the rules. The Christian legal group--which bars gays and non-Christians from leadership positions--argued that if it followed school policy, a student who doesn't believe the Bible could lead its Christian Bible studies.

Ginsburg said the school had made an appropriate decision in deciding not to grant an exemption. "Hastings, caught in the crossfire between a group's desire to exclude and students' demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership," she wrote.

She was joined in her opinion by Justices John Paul Stevens, Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Stevens, writing in a concurring opinion as he retired from the court, added that the broader nondiscrimination policy on which the all-comers student club policy is based is "plainly legitimate."

Justice Samuel Alito, in a harshly worded dissent, questioned the majority opinion, saying it upholds a principle of "no freedom of expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning."

He said the decision, which he hoped would be an "aberration," would be a "serious setback for freedom of expression in this country." Added Alito: "There are religious groups that cannot in good conscience agree in their bylaws that they will admit persons who do not share their faith, and for those groups, the consequence of an accept-all-comers policy is marginalization. …

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