Regular readers may remember this post I made about a court battle whose verdict could have major implications for campus ministry.
A Christian student organization at a local San Francisco law school was barred for refusing to admit non-Christians. This resulted in a lawsuit being filed, and the case has gone all the way to the Supreme Court.
Here’s the story from The Associated Press:
Court splits sharply on campus Christian argument
WASHINGTON — Supreme Court justices seemed to split sharply on whether a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group because it won’t let gays or non-Christians join.
The court heard arguments from the Christian Legal Society, which wants recognition from the Hastings College of the Law. Lower courts threw out a lawsuit trying to force the school to make it a campus organization.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito questioned the school’s lawyer sharply, saying that being forced to admit someone who doesn’t share their beliefs was a threat to the group. But Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor pressed the group’s lawyer on notion that if they can ban gays, other groups can legally ban women and minorities.
The story continues:
Lawyers for the student group say it’s only fair that groups with different viewpoints are treated equitably by university officials.
“In an earlier era, public universities frequently attempted to bar gay rights groups from recognized student organization status on account of their supposed encouragement of what was then illegal behavior,” Michael McConnell, a society lawyer, said in court papers. “The courts made short shrift of those policies.” McConnell argues: “The shoe is now on the other foot in much of academia. The question here is whether such groups as CLS will receive comparable First Amendment protection.”
The California university said it requires all registered student organizations to be nondiscriminatory if they want to operate on campus, regardless of viewpoint.
Groups that support gay rights “cannot exclude students who believe homosexuality is morally wrong any more than CLS is permitted to exclude students who believe it is not,” university lawyer Gregory Garre said in court papers.
Read the full story here.
So what do you think?
Should the officers of the Young Republicans Club be forced to admit registered Democrats to their organization and even allow them to serve as officers? Should the campus NAACP group be forced to admit skinheads? Should the Muslim student organization be forced to accept membership applications from those who hate Islam?
I hope common sense prevails in this case … we’ll see.
If it doesn’t, all student organizations – not just the Christian ones – will be legally vulnerable to abuse.
Why would a Christian group want to bar non believers or gay believers from coming to their meetings?
Exactly what i was going to say, Marvin.
I’m not sure why or what the deal is with this particular group. That’s not how I would approach things, but perhaps non-Christians were coming specifically to cause disruptions. I don’t really know.
What I do know is the verdict in this case could be a blessing or a burden, and do not believe it would be wise to allow non-Christians to run for office in a Christian student organization the same as I don’t believe it would be wise to allow an anti-conservative to run for office in a pro-conservative organization.
Organizations should have the right to have exclusive membership – especially leadership – based upon belief
[…] readers may remember two posts I made here and here regarding a Supreme Court case that could have major implications for traditional church-based […]
i think it’s just a matter of wording your constitution well and having an involved and active ministry, if they want to run for office and they meet the qualifications, fine. it should be very unlikely for them to get elected if the bulk of the organization is active Christians. but if they happen to get elected, the organization can still do what it wants, it’s not like the president of a Christian *club* is a dictator. and if enough non-Christians (be they gay, dope-heads, fornicators, swindlers, etc.) infiltrate the organization, then the true Christians can break off and form another group
i guess a problem might arise if the organization owns property, etc., but how can you guard against all the potentialities there? it could sustain damage in a campus riot, for example, which is usually not covered by insurance policies. and if our ministry is so tied to buildings and property that loss of such property would equal death of the ministry then maybe we’re being too much “of the world” instead of just in it
but of course you’re right, the problem comes with accepting “state funds” in the first place, although in one sense they represent a return on the activity fees that students pay which any organization made up of and serving college students should have access to, which would essentially equate it to “meat sacrificed to an idol” but staying clear of such is probably best, seems consistent with the advice i expect Paul would give
Good thoughts, G – thanks for the comments 🙂