The Center for Law & Religious Freedom

Press Release - Christian Legal Society v. Newton



CONTACT Kimberlee W. Colby: or (703) 642-1070 x3503

 Christian Legal Society Asks Supreme Court to Protect Rights of Religious Student Group

 Law School requires Christian student group to accept non-Christians as leaders, calls group’s refusal “discrimination.”

 WASHINGTON — Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society’s (CLS) Center for Law & Religious Freedom are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the right of a religious student group to draw its leaders from those who share the group’s religious views.  Hastings denied the CLS student chapter recognition, including equal access to meeting space and channels of communication to the law school community, saying that CLS violated Hastings’ nondiscrimination policy.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the University’s exclusion of CLS.

 “All student groups have the right to associate with people of like-mind and interest,” said Gregory S. Baylor, Director of CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.  “Just as the Hastings Democrats should not be required to accept Republicans as officers, and environmental groups should not be forced to give voting power to global warming deniers, religious groups should be able to draw officers and voting members from those who share their religious views.”

 CLS invites all students to attend and participate in its meetings and events.  However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith.  CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.  While allowing other groups to limit their officers and voting members according to shared beliefs and values, Hastings said CLS violated the school’s prohibition on religion and sexual orientation discrimination.       

 The 9th Circuit’s decision directly conflicts with a decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, holding that Southern Illinois University’s denial of recognition of a CLS student chapter violated the First Amendment.  Similar controversies involving CLS and other religious student groups have occurred on other campuses, however most schools have chosen to respect the rights of religious student groups. 

 CLS attorneys filed the lawsuit in September 2004.  The petition for certiorari is available here. Case history and other briefs are available here.

 The Center for Law & Religious Freedom is the advocacy division of the Christian Legal Society, a nationwide association of Christian attorneys, law students, law professors, and judges.  The Center is among the most respected voices in the religious liberty arena.