The Center for Law & Religious Freedom

The Buzz: What some are saying about the Hastings' decision

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, it was big news. Newspapers, bloggers, and websites picked up the story, and there has been plenty of press.But sometimes with all the buzz, it’s hard to discern the real issues.  So we’ve decided to link to some of the articles we’ve been reading and address five common misperceptions about the UC-Hastings case that we think obscure the important issues. Read CLS' Brief for Petitioner. 
1. There is a misperception that this case is about homosexuality or gay rights.
The case is actually about whether a religious group may ensure that its leaders share its religious beliefs. University officials mistakenly believe that CLS requiring its leaders to affirm its basic statement of faith is a form of religious discrimination. Yet statements of faith have been part of the Christian tradition for 2000 years as a means for Christians to identify the core beliefs around which they are meeting. 
Hastings made clear that it had a problem with the fact that CLS had a statement of faith with which its leaders must agree.
2. Contrary to some news reports, the Hastings group never voted to exclude gays and lesbians.
On the contrary, CLS does not to exclude any person as a voting member or leader based on sexual orientation. Furthermore, CLS chapters are expected to welcome any person to attend their meetings. 
CLS does regard unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle as inconsistent with affirmation of the CLS statement of faith and, therefore, may disqualify an individual from CLS membership and leadership. This is a widely-recognized and accepted Biblical behavioral standard which, in fact, has been applied by CLS more frequently with respect to heterosexual conduct than homosexual conduct.
3. There is a misperception that this case is about CLS seeking public funds


It is not.  The case is about recognition by the university, which brings with it the ability to participate fully in the community life of the school and full access to the services and tools used by other recognized student organizations.
4. There is a misperception that CLS is seeking special treatment. 
CLS wants to form and gather around its core values like other groups are allowed to do. That's why universities set up these programs in the first place. Nondiscrimination rules make sense when they prohibit activity that is truly discriminatory - when they involve classifications that are invidious and irrelevant. Here they don't make sense.
If Hastings really had a broad “all comers” requirement for every student group, such a requirement would magnify their interference with associational freedom. Such a policy means that all student groups at Hastings have lost the right to choose their leaders and members. The Hastings Democratic Caucus cannot expel a member who tore down “Obama 2008” signs while shouting “Vote for McCain.” The Hastings Association of Muslim Law Students cannot remove a group president who drew a picture of Muhammed.
In fact, Hastings has recognized many groups whose constitutions provide that their officers and voting members should agree with their organizations’ missions and viewpoints.
While CLS is the only student group Hastings has derecognized, other religious student groups have faced similar threats of derecognition from other universities.
5. There is a misperception that things were going along fine for CLS student chapters until the CLS headquarters adopted some explicit statement in 2004, then the lawsuits started.
CLS chapters have been encountering problems since at least 1993 from University administrators who claim that CLS either discriminates on the basis of religion or sometimes on the basis of sexual orientation.
For more information, follow these links:
Two scholarly articles detailing university conduct between 1993 and 96.
CLS student chapters across the nation have had to resort to litigation after being threatened with loss of access to campus because of alleged discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation.
Unfortunately, other student groups sometimes actively pressure a law school to deny CLS the same recognition they enjoy.