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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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Supreme Court: Calif. university’s policy upheld, but school still barred from targeting Christian group

CLS, ADF attorneys: Conflict continues between First Amendment and nondiscrimination policies
Monday, June 28, 2010

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 Monday to uphold an unusual university policy that forces student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their beliefs to become leaders and voting members. The court confined its opinion to the unique policy and did not address whether nondiscrimination policies in general, which are typical on public university campuses, may require this.   The court concluded that public universities may override a religious student group’s right to determine its leadership only if it denies that right to all student groups.

Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund represented a student chapter of CLS at California’s Hastings College of the Law in the lawsuit, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The suit was filed in 2004 after the law school refused to recognize the chapter because the group requires all of its officers and voting members to agree with its basic Christian beliefs.

“All college students, including religious students, should have the right to form groups around shared beliefs without being banished from campus,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel at the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “Today’s ruling, however, will have limited impact. We are not aware of any other public university that has the exact same policy as Hastings.”

“The conflict still exists. This decision doesn’t settle the core constitutional issue of whether nondiscrimination policies in general can force religious student groups to allow non-believers to lead their groups,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Long-term, the decision puts other student groups across the country at risk, and we will continue to fight for their constitutional rights. The Hastings policy actually requires CLS to allow atheists to lead its Bible studies and the College Democrats to accept the election of Republican officers in order for the groups to be recognized on campus. We agree with Justice Alito in his dissent that the court should have rejected this as absurd.”

The law school’s acting dean went so far as to state in a PBS interview in April that a black student organization must admit white supremacists.

“We believe we will ultimately prevail in this case,” McConnell said. “The record will show that Hastings law school applied its policy in a discriminatory way--excluding CLS from campus but not other groups who limit leadership and voting membership in a similar way. The Supreme Court did not rule that public universities can apply different rules to religious groups than they apply to political, cultural, or other student groups.”

In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Brushing aside inconvenient precedent, the Court arms public educational institutions with a handy weapon for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups…. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.”

Twenty-two friend-of-the-court briefs from a broad and diverse array of nearly 100 parties were filed with the Supreme Court in support of the CLS chapter, including a brief filed by 14 state attorneys general. Lead counsel Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argued before the court on April 19 on behalf of the CLS chapter. 

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. The CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom is the advocacy division of the Christian Legal Society, a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, law professors, and judges.
 
 
 

CLS, ADF attorneys available to media following oral argument at U.S. Supreme Court Monday

High court to hear arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
Friday, April 16, 2010

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez:
What’s at Stake?
·   The freedom of all student groups to choose leaders who share their beliefs, free from undue government pressure and the threat of exclusion from campus life.
·   Whether a public law school may exclude a religious student organization from a speech forum solely because the group requires its leaders to share its core religious commitments.
·   Students’ First Amendment-protected rights of freedom of expression and freedom of association on campus.
·   Whether the state is able to play “free speech favorites” by limiting debate to “approved” views and withholding recognition from groups who have different views.
WHO: Lead Counsel Michael W. McConnell, CLS Senior Counsel Kim Colby, ADF Senior Counsel David French, ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor
WHAT: Available for interviews following oral argument in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez
WHEN: Monday, April 19, immediately following oral argument, which begins at 10 a.m. EDT
WHERE: U.S. Supreme Court, 1 First St. N.E., Washington

WASHINGTON — Attorneys representing a student chapter of the Christian Legal Society at California’s Hastings College of the Law will be available for media interviews outside the U.S. Supreme Court following oral argument Monday in the chapter’s lawsuit against the school. The high court agreed in December to hear the case, filed by attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

“All students, including Christians, have the right to form groups around shared beliefs without being excluded from campus life,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel at the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom.  “The Constitution trumps a campus policy. The Constitution protects the freedom of private student groups to select their messages and their leaders.”

ADF and CLS attorneys filed suit on behalf of the CLS student chapter in 2004 after Hastings College of the Law refused to recognize the group because it requires all of its officers and voting members to subscribe to its basic Christian beliefs. Twenty-two friend-of-the-court briefs from a broad and diverse array of nearly 100 parties have been filed with the Supreme Court in support of the CLS chapter, including a brief filed by 14 state attorneys general.

“Forcing CLS to have an atheist lead its Bible studies is as absurd as the College Democrats being forced to elect Republican officers—which under the current Hastings policy is indeed required,” explained ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “If the court makes the right decision in this case, your son or daughter--grandchild, niece, or nephew--will be free to be Christian and still be treated equally on public university campuses.”

Lead counsel Michael W. McConnell, director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, will argue before the court Monday on behalf of the CLS chapter.

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. The CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom is the advocacy division of the Christian Legal Society, a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, law professors, and judges. 

 
 

Broad support for Christian student group reflected in numerous briefs filed with Supreme Court

Friend-of-the-court briefs favorable to position of ADF, CLS demonstrate breadth, diversity of support
Monday, February 08, 2010

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court received 22 friend-of-the-court briefs Thursday in support of a Christian Legal Society chapter’s lawsuit against California’s Hastings College of the Law. The briefs demonstrate the breadth and diversity of support for the group’s rights protected by the First Amendment, according to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom who are litigating the case and filed their brief in the case on Jan. 28.

Among the nearly 100 parties that filed briefs in support of the position of ADF and CLS in the case are 14 state attorneys general and a large number of diverse groups holding to a very wide range of beliefs and practices.

“Christian student groups shouldn’t be forced to deny their faith in order to be treated the same as other student groups. This support--from organizations that fall across the spectrum in their religious, political, and ideological viewpoints--amply testifies to the importance of this case for all,” said Senior Counsel Kim Colby with the CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “True tolerance and real diversity require that each group be able to ensure that its leaders agree with its core mission.”

“Just as all student groups have the right to associate with people who share common beliefs and interests, Christian student groups have the right to be Christian student groups,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Requiring leaders of a Christian club to live by a Christian code of conduct is no different than an environmentalist club requiring its leaders not to be lumberjacks.”

Attorneys general for Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Alabama, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Louisiana, West Virginia, and South Dakota filed a joint brief with the court in support of CLS.

Among the numerous and diverse groups that also filed briefs in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez are Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Boy Scouts of America, Cato Institute, Coalition of African-American Pastors, Compassion International, Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, World Vision, and two dozen past presidents of the Evangelical Theological Society. 

The ADF Center for Academic Freedom defends religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. The CLS Center for Law & Religious Freedom is the advocacy division of the Christian Legal Society, a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, law professors, and judges.
 
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