There’s Supreme Court trouble brewing here in the Bay Area, where a Christian students’ group has sued UC Hastings College of Law for withholding public funding from the group because it refuses to admit gay students as full members. The Christian Legal Society, an evangelical group with dozens of chapters nationwide, asks members to sign a statement of faith that condemns “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle.”
During CLS v. Martinez oral arguments before the Supreme Court Monday, justices seemed divided on whether Hastings was at fault. The school says that CLS violates its “all-comers” policy, which states that to receive public support, a group must let any student participate, vote, and be eligible for elected positions. CLS argues that admitting gay students violates freedom of religion and association under the constitution, and that Hastings applies the policy selectively. Writing for The Faculty Lounge, Calvin Massey predicts that the court’s decision will hinge on whether Hastings can prove that it does not use “selective application.” As Justice Scalia commented yesterday, “They stipulated that the [all-comers] policy exists. They didn’t stipulate that it is…being faithfully applied by Hastings.”
But when it comes down to it, CLS essentially says that Hastings is violating its freedom of religion and association by forcing it to respect the freedom and association of gay students. So ruling in favor of CLS could undercut the court’s constitutional argument. And, as Paul Cates of the ACLU points out, religion has historically been used by some to perpetuate discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation.
A decision is not expected until June, but it’s sure to spark debate on college campuses nationwide about how publicly funded religious groups impact freedom of speech, religion, and association.
Photo credit: Christian Legal Society