Christian club sues UC Hastings over membership policy

Non-discrimination policy would require admission of non-Christians
Friday, October 22, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today against officials with the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.

The school refused to recognize the campus Christian Legal Society chapter, Hastings Christian Fellowship (HCF), because it will not agree to a non-discrimination policy that would require the group to admit non-Christians as members and officers.

"UC Hastings has apparently decided to withdraw itself from the ‘marketplace of ideas,’" said ADF Chief Counsel Benjamin Bull.  "What’s next?  Will they require a vegetarian club to admit meat-eaters or a Democratic Party student group to admit Republicans?"

"Permitting people to join HCF who disagree with the group’s beliefs and goals would contradict and undermine their purpose," Bull added.  "The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that student organizations have the right to determine their own membership."

Though non-Christians are not able to join HCF as members or be elected as officers, they are not barred from attending the group’s meetings or participating in discussions.  The group informed the university that they do not object to the portions of the non-discrimination policy that forbid discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, or sex.

Lack of official recognition denies the group numerous benefits, including 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.

"Requiring HCF to agree to the policy to obtain benefits holds them hostage by using their own beliefs against them," said Greg Baylor, director of CLS’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom.  "The policy is unconstitutional and discriminates against those who hold sincere religious beliefs."

Local counsel in the case, Christian Legal Society Chapter of University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Mary Kay Kane, et al., are Steven Burlingham, with the law firm Gary, Till, & Burlingham, and Timothy Smith, of McKinley & Smith, P.C., both based in Sacramento.  The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Either through funding or direct litigation, ADF is consistently winning victories for the religious expression rights of students at several well-known universities.  Most recently, ADF and CLS attorneys filed suit against Pennsylvania State University officials for their decision to deny recognition to that school’s CLS chapter, which refused to sign a non-discrimination policy similar to the one at UC Hastings.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.