The Center for Law & Religious Freedom

Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (UC Hastings)

The Center represented a religious student group that had been penalized by a public law school for requiring its leaders to agree with its core religious beliefs. Avoiding the main issue, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled (5-4) that a public law school may require all student groups to allow any student to be a member or leader of the group regardless of whether the student agrees with - or actively opposes - the values, beliefs, or speech of the group.

Recent Developments

The Supreme Court opinion, issued June 28, 2010, is available here. Our press release discussing the opinion is here.

Oral Argument April 19, 2010: Find the transcript archived here.  Christian Legal Society filed its Reply Brief on April 2, 2010. Appendices to the brief are also available: Appendix A and Appendix B.  On February 4, 2010, numerous Amici Curiae filed briefs in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of CLS. These briefs are available here.  The Brief for Petitoner was filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on January 28, 2010.  Click here to download the brief.  On December 7, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court granted CLS's petition for certiorari. Click here for Press Release and quotes.

Summary of Case

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. This was not the first time a state university had discriminated against CLS (for other examples of this discrimination, click here). 

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.

On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court ruled in favor of defendants, including school officials and Hastings Outlaw, a recognized student organization, on April 2006. CLS appealed this ruling. A panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral argument in this case on March 10, 2009. The panel consisted of Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, Judge Proctor Hug, Jr., and Judge Carlos T. Bea. The panel affirmed the district court's opinion, ruling against CLS in an unpublished disposition on March 17, 2009.

On May 5, 2009, CLS filed a petition for writ of certiorari in the Supreme Court, seeking a reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision against CLS.

The Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom and the Alliance Defense Fund represent the CLS chapter, and attorneys Timothy Smith and Stephen Burlingham are serving as local counsel.


Demand Letter - September 23, 2004.

University Response to Demand Letter - October 1, 2004.

Litigation Documents

Supreme Court - Briefing on the Merits

Brief for Petitioner - January 28, 2010

Amicus Briefs in Support of Petitioner - February 4, 2010

Brief of Hastings College of the Law Respondents - March 8, 2010

Brief of Respondent-Intervenor Hastings Outlaw - March 8, 2010

Amicus Briefs in Support of Respondents - March 15, 2010

Reply Brief for Petitioner with Appendices A and B - April 2, 2010

Supreme Court - Briefing on Petition for Certiorari

Petition for Writ of Certiorari - May 5, 2009.

Brief in Opposition for Hastings College of the Law Respondents - July 8, 2009

Reply Brief for Petitioner - July 21, 2009

Court of Appeals

Brief of Appellant Christian Legal Society - September 27, 2006.

Brief of Appellee UC Hastings - December 22, 2006.

Reply Brief of Appellant Christian Legal Society - February 1, 2007.

District Court

Complaint - October 22, 2004.

Amended Order Re: Motions for Summary Judgment - May 19, 2006.

Press Releases

Press Release - June 28, 2010

Press Release - May 6, 2009.

Press Release - March 9, 2009.

Press Release - May 18, 2006.

Press Release - April 13, 2005.

Press Release - October 22, 2004.

Noteworthy News & Commentary

History of Universities Discriminating against CLS

Dean Joan W. Howarth, Teaching Freedom: Exclusionary Rights of Student Groups, 42 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 889 (2009)

The Buzz: What Some are Saying about CLS v. Martinez

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly - PBS's Tim O'Brien covers CLS v. Martinez

"Politically Correct, Legally Wrong" - The Washington Post (April 19, 2010)

Interview with Michael McConnell - by Timothy Dalrymple at (May 11, 2010)

Adam Goldstein: "Supreme Court's CLS Decision Sucker-Punches First Amendment" (The Huffington Post - June 30, 2010)