Christian Club Case Could Affect Religious Freedoms

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WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court is considering whether a Christian university club must follow its school's non-discrimination policy -- a case that could dramatically impact religious groups on college campuses across the nation.

The Christian Legal Society chapter at the University of California Hastings College filed the lawsuit that started the case.

Alliance Defense Fund attorney Greg Baylor recently spoke with CBN News about the impact this case could have. Click here for his comments.

The university stripped the chapter of its school club status and funding when the group refused to allow club officers who did not sign its statement of beliefs.

The document includes a statement on marriage that says sexual conduct is reserved for marriage between one man and one woman.

"However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith," the release said. "CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman."

The university said it requires all registered student organizations to show equality 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.

"The school's position is that because students are subsidizing these activities and because the law school is subsidizing these activities, that every student at that community ought to have equal access to all groups," Garre said.

But Michael McConnell, the attorney representing the Hastings Christian Legal Society, argued before the Supreme Court Monday that such a requirement was a hindrance to religious freedoms.

"This is about the ability, the freedom of everybody to be able to form groups based around shared beliefs and be able to express themselves on campus," he said. "The particulars of what they believe just doesn't matter."

Even one gay group, Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, backed the Christian Legal Society, arguing that Hastings' policy "would also adversely affect gay organizations because it would clearly ban gay only groups."

"And if the religious non-discrimination rule prohibits discrimination on the basis of particular religious tenets, it would bar gay groups from excluding students with faith-based opposition to homosexual conduct," the group added.

The more conservative justices appeared to be leaning towards the Christian Legal Society, while the two female justices reasoned that if a student group can ban gays, it was also possible to bar women and racial minorities.

The high court will likely rule on the case in June.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.