Court Allows College to Deny Christian Club

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A California law school can deny funding and recognition to a Christian club on campus because the group excludes membership to homosexuals and non-Christians, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued the decision against the Christian Legal Society Club at the University of California Hastings College of Law.

Leaders for the national Christian law club say they allow anyone to attend their meetings, but began requiring all members to sign a statement of faith in 2004.

Click play for more comments on the case from Tim Tracey of CLS's Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

That statement indicates that each member "holds certain Christian viewpoints commonly regarded in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant evangelical traditions as orthodox."

After the club expressed these changes in 2004, Hastings refused to recognize the group or provide funding for trips and activities. The university claimed that the newly required statement of faith went against their non-discrimination policy.

CLS filed suit later that year, but a district court ruled against them in 2006, forcing the club to become an unofficial organization on campus, rather than a recognized one.

Tuesday's ruling upholds the lower court's decision, giving the public university permission to require student organizations to accept all types of members, "even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group."

CLS's Center for Law & Religious Freedom represented the club in court.

"How long is a Christian student group going to remain Christian if it can't require its leaders to support its beliefs?" Tim Tracey, the Society's attorney, asked in response to the case.

UC Hastings College of Law currently has more than 60 student organizations, including a feminist group, a Jewish student society, a pro-choice group, and several clubs based on race and nationality.

The Christian Legal Society is a Virginia-based group with chapters in 165 law schools nationwide. Members are Christians and meet for Bible studies and talks on how to implement their faith into the practice of law.

The CLS Statement of Faith is as follows:

Trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I believe in:

  • One God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
  • The Deity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, God's only Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; His vicarious death for our sins through which we receive eternal life; His bodily resurrection and personal return.
  • The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.
  • The Bible as the inspired Word of God.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Legal Society, UC Hastings College of Law Web Site

First aired on March 19, 2009

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