The U.S. Supreme Court said it will decide whether a public university can refuse to recognize a religious student group because the group requires its leaders to share its religious beliefs.
The justices agreed Monday to intervene in the case of Christian Legal Society Chapter of University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Mary Kay Kane, et al., which was first filed in 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Since the federal civil rights suit was filed, attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom have argued on behalf of the student chapter of CLS, insisting that the group should be able to decide its own membership and not be required by the college to admit homosexuals and non-Christians as members and officers in order to receive school recognition.
"Public universities shouldn't single out Christian student groups for discrimination. All student groups have the right to associate with people of like-mind and interest," commented Senior Counsel Kim Colby with the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. "We trust the Supreme Court will not allow Hastings to continue to deprive CLS of this right by forcing the group to abandon its identity as a Christian student organization."
According to ADF, the student group – by not agreeing to the school's non-discrimination policy – will be denied school privileges given only to clubs that have official school recognition. The group will miss out on activity funding, advertising in school publications or on campus bulletin boards, use of campus facilities, and access to all services offered by the Office of Student Services, reported the Christian legal group.
"Christian students have the right to gather as Christians for a common purpose and around shared beliefs," stated ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor with the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. "It's completely unreasonable – and unconstitutional – for a public university to disrupt the purposes of private student groups by forcing them to accept as members and officers those who oppose the very ideas they advocate."
The Christian Legal Society, which has chapters at universities nationwide, has sued other universities on the same grounds.
It won a similar suit against Southern Illinois University, which settled with the group in 2007 and recognized its membership and leadership policies.
Arguments for the Hastings case is expected to take place in the spring.