The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it would not hear an appeal brought by Christian student groups against San Diego State University because of its non-discrimination policy.
The announcement lets stand a ruling last August by the U.S. Court of Appeals to the Ninth Circuit, which held (PDF) that the university’s policy was constitutional, even though it prevented Alpha Delta Chi — a Christian sorority — and Alpha Gamma Omega — a Christian fraternity — from gaining official recognition on campus.
The fraternity and sorority required members to adhere to certain Christian teachings, which conflicted with SDSU’s policy prohibiting discrimination based “on the basis of race, sex,
color, age, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, physical or mental handicap, ancestry, or medical condition.”
Because the policy prevented the Christian groups from gaining recognition, they were prevented from having university funding, use of San Diego State’s name and logo, access to campus office space, and several other benefits.
Represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, the fraternity and sorority argued that the policy violated their First Amendment rights.
“The right of association applies to all groups on campus,” said Jeremy Tedesco, litigation staff counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “All student groups have a right to elect officers and members who share that group’s values or belief system. These universities are requiring Christian organizations to accept members who disagree with their beliefs and viewpoints, violating these students’ First Amendment rights.”
However, the court held that the policy was not unconstitutional because it did not force the Christian fraternity and sorority to accept non-Christian members, only withheld benefits for not doing so.
“San Diego State’s reasonable and viewpoint-neutral requirement that recognized student groups comply with its nondiscrimination policy does not violate Plaintiffs’ right to expressive association,” the court ruled. “Plaintiffs are free to express any message they wish, and may include or exclude members on whatever basis they like; they simply cannot oblige the university to subsidize them as they do so.”
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