Will Religious Liberty Last on Campus?

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the University of California – Hastings College of the Law filed a lawsuit on October 22, 2004, against school officials who denied recognition to the group because the chapter requires its officers and voting members to adhere to the CLS Statement of Faith.

The CLS chapter asked school officials in early September 2004 to exempt the group and other religious student organizations from the religion and sexual orientation portions of the university’s nondiscrimination policy. As applied to CLS, this nondiscrimination policy would force the chapter to allow persons who hold beliefs and engage in conduct contrary to the CLS Statement of Faith, which includes a prohibition on extramarital sex, to join as voting members and to run for officer positions. School officials denied this request and stripped the chapter of recognition and the benefits of recognition, including student activity fee funding.

In its lawsuit CLS alleges that UC Hastings’ exclusion of its chapter violates, among other constitutional rights, CLS’ right of expressive association and CLS’ right to be free from viewpoint discrimination.

CLS argues that is a violation of the right of expressive association to force a religious student organization to accept officers and voting members who hold beliefs and engage in conduct in opposition to the group’s shared viewpoints, thereby inhibiting the group’s ability to define and express its message.

CLS also argues that it is a violation of the right to be free from viewpoint discrimination to impose the above requirement on a religious student organization while permitting every other recognized student organization on campus to limit its officers and voting membership to persons who agree with the group’s shared viewpoints.

The issue is simply this: does the First Amendment trump political correctness on the college campus, or does it not? We will see.