Supreme Court Rules Christian Group Can’t Demand Funding while Violating Non-Discrimination Policies

June 28, 2010

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This morning the Supreme Court ruled that the University of California-Hastings law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that violates the school's non-discrimination policy by barring non-Christian and LGBT students from membership.  Five of the Court's nine Justices upheld the lower court rulings that the Christian group's First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college's decision.

The case concerns a student chapter of the Christian Legal Society (CLS), which sued the school after being denied official recognition and funding because the student group violated the school's non-discrimination policy. That policy requires that student groups must be open to all students in order to receive funding and official recognition.  The federal appellate court below ruled unanimously against CLS because the school's policy prohibited every student group, whether religious or secular, from excluding students that disagree with the group's mission.   For example, if the school's Democratic club cannot access school funding while excluding Republicans from its membership, a conservative Christian group cannot demand funds while excluding gay, non-Christian, or non-conservative Christian students.  CLS appealed, claiming that it had a constitutional right - not enjoyed by any secular organizations - to receive state funding while discriminating against students on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.

In March the Center for Inquiry submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing that religious organizations do not have a constitutional right to special exemptions from generally applicable regulations, and that student groups in violation of the school's policy therefore cannot demand public money and official recognition. CFI further argued that the school's non-discrimination does not impose any substantial burden on the student organization's free speech rights. CLS members are still permitted to use school facilities without official recognition and funding from the school. Moreover, if CLS had abided by the school's non-discrimination policy, it would have received school funding and would not have been prevented from expressing its views about religion and homosexuality.

Justices Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, Sotomayor and Kennedy agreed with CFI that the Christian Legal Society has no special right to access funds while violating UC-Hastings' non-discrimination policy.  Four Justices -- Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Scalia and Thomas -- dissented.  

Comments:

#1 oldebabe (Guest) on Monday June 28, 2010 at 9:31am

The new `four horsemen of the apocalypse’?

#2 Ratiocination on Monday June 28, 2010 at 2:41pm

More like the Four Fundamentalists of the Consistently Wrong Right.

#3 Randy Pelton on Monday June 28, 2010 at 2:46pm

Supporters of the Wall won one today and I celebrate this victory. But with the current court configuration and these close calls (5-4 decisions), the Wall’s sturdiness remains under constant threat. How I long for the Warren court. I’d even settle for the early years of the Burger Court. The narrowness of this decision highlights the importance of organizations like CFI, Americans United, FFRF, and other secular voices. And I thank them all. Constant Vigilance must be our motto and our stance. I take great comfort from knowing that secular voices such as CFI are there, speaking up, being heard, taking action. Keep up the good work Derek.

#4 gray1 on Monday June 28, 2010 at 3:27pm

Doubtless there are other funds available to an upstanding young Christian group such as this aside from those from the school which probably collected much of same from those students in the first place, but I wouldn’t expect that their little group being open to non-Christians would be a serious problem unless they actually fear being taken over from within.  Besides, chances are such contributions from the outside would be tax deductible.

Perhaps they should be watching better for what happens in Washington D.C. all too often, the nose of the camel.  The simple answer is to not take or even ask for the money (even if was your own) if you hope to stick by your convictions.  Increasingly some of our states wish they could afford to turn the money down and probably end up ahead.  Utah is increasingly to be applauded in this respect.

A direct democracy ultimately subscribes to the tyranny of the majority, which is why we upgraded early on to being a republic having both a constitution and bill of rights.  Unfortunately both documents are increasingly being trampled by an unruly mob driven by their own agenda and a dumbing-down educational system whereby the electorate can be manipulated right into their own cages.

Of course we must assume that all other school groups who receive money are wide open to accepting all applicants.

#5 asanta on Tuesday June 29, 2010 at 10:36pm

It makes me feel a little (emphases on ‘little’) better about the possible outcome when the issue of same sex marriage reaches the Supreme Court.

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