Schools May Require That Groups Comply With Non-Discrimination Policies To Receive Public Funding And Official Recognition
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WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court ruled today that Hastings College of Law at the University of California may deny official recognition and funding to any student club that violates its non-discrimination policy, as long as that policy is applied equally to all clubs. The policy was challenged by Christian Legal Society (CLS), a student group that requires members to sign a Statement of Faith that, among other things, states that sexual activity should not occur outside of marriage and then only between a man and a woman. Consequently, gay and lesbian students, as well as anyone who does not subscribe to CLS' specific religious beliefs, are barred from membership. The American Civil Liberties Union filed an amicus brief in the case in support of Hastings.
"Today's ruling sends a message that public universities need not lend their name and support to groups that discriminate," said Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director for the ACLU. "While all student groups are free to meet and hold their own beliefs, a public university has the right to enact policies that refuse to officially recognize and fund groups that deliberately exclude other members of the student body."
In order to qualify as a "Registered Student Organization (RSO)," Hastings requires that student groups comply with its non-discrimination policy, which mandates that all RSOs be open to all students. Registered Student Organizations are eligible to receive university funding, use the Hastings logo in branding and participate in the student activity fair.
Despite being denied RSO status due to its membership policy, CLS has been permitted to meet on campus as an official group, and has been granted the use of campus facilities to hold meetings and campus bulletin boards to communicate with students.
"Under the Hastings policy, CLS still had ample opportunity to express its religious beliefs publicly, associate freely on campus and deny membership to students of other faiths," said Daniel Mach, Director of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "But CLS went further, claiming a right not only to discriminate, but to receive government funding to subsidize that discrimination. The Constitution requires no such thing."
The Supreme Court's decision can be found here: www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-1371.pdf
More information on this case is available here: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights-religion-belief/christian-legal-society-v-martinez