A sharply divided US
Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Monday in a case examining
whether a California law school can refuse to officially recognize a
Christian student group that requires its members to embrace biblical
passages denouncing homosexuality.
Officials at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law
in San Francisco said the group’s stance violates the school’s
antidiscrimination policy – including bans on discrimination based on
religious belief or sexual orientation.
As a result, the
Christian Legal Society (CLS) was denied status as a recognized student
group at the college and stripped of the ability to receive activity
funds, use school e-mail and bulletin boards, and meet in school
During the hour-long argument on Monday, a lawyer
for the CLS said the school’s policy is itself discriminatory against
students who wish to organize based on a shared system of beliefs.
policy is, I think, blatantly unconstitutional,” said Michael
McConnell, a Stanford law professor, who is representing the CLS. “It
is also a frontal assault on freedom of association
Hastings’ lawyer, former Solicitor General Gregory Garre, countered that the school’s polic
requires every student organization to allow any student to become a
voting member and potential leader. Even students who disagree with the
fundamental goals and beliefs of a group must be allowed to join, vote,
and potentially serve as a leader of the group, he said.
Would Democrats be allowed to lead the Republican Club?
is a prospect that Justice Antonin Scalia found “weird.” He said that
under the policy, the Republican Club would be required to admit
Democrats not only as members but as potential leaders regardless of
their political beliefs.
“To require this Christian society to
allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes, right?”
he asked. “That’s crazy."
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who may
wield the deciding vote in the case, suggested that the school’s policy
is unnecessary. “Doesn’t this all just work out?” he asked.
Kennedy said that Democrats wouldn’t want to attend Republican Club
meetings and serve as officers. “What interest does the school have in
this policing mechanism it is imposing?” he asked.
responded that if the law school allowed religious groups to exclude
some people, then the school would be in a position to have to draw
lines permitting exclusions in some cases but not in others.
As a result, the school decided to enforce its written antidiscrimination policy as an “all-comers policy.”