This doesn’t seem like it should be much of an argument. If your campus group — atheist, religious, whatever — receives funding from your public school via activities fees, then you cannot ban certain people from joining the group. If you want to ban people, then you won’t be recognized as an official campus organization.
Hastings College of Law in San Francisco is home to a (currently unofficial) chapter of the Christian Legal Society. That group wanted access to student activity fees. At the same time, they won’t allow non-Christians and gay students to join (and, thus, become voting members of the group). So the school won’t recognize them.
As you can guess, a lawsuit was filed. The CLS said “its religious liberty is being violated by the [nondiscrimination] requirement.”
“So they [the CLS] applied for recognition and Hastings said [essentially], sorry, you can’t be recognized because your membership requirements and leadership requirements violate our non-discrimination policy. So, requiring your members to believe in Jesus Christ and telling them that they can’t engage in sex outside of marriage, those are discriminatory policies, and we don’t have a place for you here,” [CLS attorney Tim] Tracey explains.
Recently, a ruling came down from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
It’s a paragraph long (PDF) and it makes complete sense:
In short(er), if the Christians want to discriminate, they won’t be doing it as a Hastings organization. They’ll just be doing it as a bunch of ignorant/religious law students.
The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups — all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable.
Rob Boston of Americans United puts the case in context:
Had this group been privately funded, it could discriminate all it wanted. But this organization sought funds drawn from a large pool of people, fees that are usually mandatory. In that respect, the money is akin to taxation. The government entity collecting and dispersing the funds has the right — and some might even say an obligation — to ensure that none of the money ends up subsidizing discrimination…
It’s also worth pointing that all groups are being treated equally. I don’t know if there is “Secular Humanists of Hastings Law School” group, but if there is, and if it is receiving activity fees, it must allow Christians and other religious students to join. And that’s as it should be.
I don’t know why the Christians would want to kick out those who disagree. (And I wonder how many non-Christian, gay students would want to join a Christian Legal Society in the first place.)
Some of the best conversations I had in my college atheist group were with Christians who came to our meetings (some joined and paid dues, though not many). It’s nice to bounce ideas off of each other and have someone who won’t always agree with you.
What does the CLS accomplish by carving out a Christian-only club?
(via The Wall of Separation)