The Center for Law & Religious Freedom

Press Release October 22, 2004


Federal Lawsuit Claims UC Hastings’ Nondiscrimination Policy Violates First Amendment

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of California - Hastings College of Law (UC Hastings) filed a lawsuit today against school officals who denied recognition of the group because the chapter will not agree to accept members and officers who openly opposed their Christian beliefs.

The school claims the chapter’s leadership and membership criteria violate the school’s Policy on Nondiscrimination.  The policy forces the CLS chapter, and other campus religious groups who want to be recognized, to accept non-Christian members and officers.  The federal civil rights lawsuit alleges that UC Hastings is violating the First Amendment rights of expressive association, free speech and free exercise of religion of the CLS chapter and other campus religious groups by failing to exempt them from the Policy on Nondiscrimination. 

The CLS chapter asked school officials in early September to exempt the group and other religious student organizations from the religion and sexual orientation portions of the Policy on Nondiscrimination.  School officials denied the chapter’s request, stating “[T]o be one of our student-recognized organizations, the CLS chapter must open its membership to all students irrespective of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation.”  The school then stripped the CLS chapter of its yearly funding, despite promises already made by UC Hastings officials to provide for certain chapter-related expenses.

“It is outrageous that the University of California, which was at the epicenter of the struggle for campus free speech in the 1960’s, should now refuse to recognize a student group’s fundamental right to choose to associate with those who share their beliefs,” stated Steven H. Aden, Chief Litigation Counsel for the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, located in Annandale, Virginia.  “The University of California is only the latest in a string of colleges across the country to face litigation because they value political correctness over religious liberty.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom, the Alliance Defense Fund, and allied attorneys Timothy Smith and Stephen Burlingham in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Christian Legal Society, founded in 1961, is the national membership organization of Christian attorneys, judges, law professors and law students, as well as supportive laypeople in all fifty states. They are organized in more than 1100 cities into attorney chapters, law student chapters, and fellowships throughout the United States.