The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to hear an appeal by a Christian group that lost its official status with a university for refusing to open its membership to homosexuals.
According to reports, UC Hastings College of Law requires all officially recognized student groups to be open to all students. However, “The Christian Legal Society [CLS] chapter requires voting members and officers to sign a statement of agreement with the group’s religious views,” noted Bloomberg. “The group also excludes those who engage in homosexual activity.”
Because of the conflict with the school’s rules, the society lost its recognition, excluding them from certain campus mailings and blocking campus funds from going to pay for the group’s leaders travel to national meetings.
“Lawyers for the group filed suit, contending that it was unconstitutional for a state-funded law school to deny official recognition to a religious group because of its ‘core religious viewpoints,'” The Los Angeles Times noted. “Its suit said the law school had violated its freedom of ‘expressive association’ as well as its rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion, all protected by the 1st Amendment.”
However, a court of appeals rejected the claim, saying the university was within its rights to enforce open membership rules for student groups. In its appeal to the Supreme Court, the society said that such rules infringe on students’ constitutional right to “expressive association,” freedom of speech and religion.
The group further asserts that Hastings allows “every other recognized student organization on campus to limit its officers and voting membership to persons who agree with the group’s shared viewpoints,” according to a summary of the case on the CLS Web site.
“By accepting the case to be heard next spring, the justices have agreed to navigate complicated terrain on how neutral rules may affect religious groups,” USA Today added. “In urging the justices to take up the CLS appeal, the National Association of Evangelicals deemed the dispute ‘an important case about religious liberty affecting the … rights of thousands of religious student groups at university campuses throughout the nation.'”
The Christian Legal Society is the only group in the school’s history to refuse to abide by the open membership policy, the paper noted.
In a brief filed with the court, Hastings said the policy is required because it “encourages tolerance [and] cooperation.”