Supreme Court Rules Against Christian Law Students

In another 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against Christian law students at Hastings Law School in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Justice Ginsburg ruled that Christian students must adhere to non-discrimination policies if they are to accept funding or benefits from the school.

I previously wrote on the case, which is only the latest example of the growing conflict between non-discrimination laws and the rights of free association and free exercise.

Ginsburg writes:

Hastings’ requirement that student groups accept allcomers, we are satisfied, “is justified without reference to the content [or viewpoint] of the regulated speech.” Ward, 491 U. S., at 791 (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted). The Law School’s policy aims at the act of rejecting would-be group members without reference to the reasons motivating that behavior: Hastings’ “desire to redress th[e] perceived harms” of exclusionary membership policies “provides an adequate explanation for its [allcomers condition] over and above mere disagreement with [any student group’s] beliefs or biases.” Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U. S. 476, 488 (1993). CLS’s conduct—not its Christian perspective—is, from Hastings’ vantagepoint, what stands between the group and RSO status. “In the end,” as Hastings observes, “CLS is simply confusing its own viewpoint-based objections to . . . nondiscrimination laws (which it is entitled to have and [to] voice) with viewpoint discrimination.” Brief for Hastings 31.

This is a strong preference for non-discrimination policies over associational claims. It is an interesting opinion in light of the recent jury ruling in favor of the Boy Scouts in Philadelphia on blocking their eviction from a public building.

This was a big day for Justice Alito who wrote the majority opinion in today’s gun case. Here Alito lashes out at what he considers the misrepresentation of record and prior precedent:

Hastings’ requirement that student groups accept allcomers, we are satisfied, “is justified without reference to the content [or viewpoint] of the regulated speech.” Ward, 491 U. S., at 791 (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted). The Law School’s policy aims at the act of rejecting would-be group members without reference to the reasons motivating that behavior: Hastings’ “desire to redress th[e] perceived harms” of exclusionary membership policies “provides an adequate explanation for its [allcomers condition] over and above mere disagreement with [any student group’s] beliefs or biases.” Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U. S. 476, 488 (1993). CLS’s conduct—not its Christian perspective—is, from Hastings’ vantagepoint, what stands between the group and RSO status. “In the end,” as Hastings observes, “CLS is simply confusing its own viewpoint-based objections to . . . nondiscrimination
laws (which it is entitled to have and [to] voice) with viewpoint discrimination.” Brief for Hastings 31.

The case shows the remaining sharp ideological division of the Court in combination with today’s 5-4 gun rights ruling. Ironically, Alito attacks the majority for its failure to protect the constitutionally protected interests of the students, but he refused to expand on the rights of privileges and immunities jurisprudence in the McDonald case. Instead, he declared gun rights as fundamental but refused to address widespread criticism of the Slaughter House cases.

23 thoughts on “Supreme Court Rules Against Christian Law Students

  1. I’m going to have to buy a gun I guess so that I may exercise my fundamental rights concerning those who refuse to follow the non-discrimination laws.

  2. I think there’s a difference between the CLS case and the Boy Scouts case. With the Boy Scouts, the state was attempting to deny equal access. With the CLS, the state was directly subsidizing the organization.

  3. From AL:

    The reality is that lawmaking involves balancing freedoms. Any law that enhances freedom in one way will almost always reduce freedom in another.

  4. Adam: “I think there’s a difference between the CLS case and the Boy Scouts case. With the Boy Scouts, the state was attempting to deny equal access. With the CLS, the state was directly subsidizing the organization.”

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I didn’t think the state was denying equal access to the Boy Scouts, but requiring that they pay market rate for their use of the facilities instead of the token $1.00 rate. They could still use the space, just not get the sweetheart deal.

  5. The supreme court made the correct decision.
    Where state schools and public funding are involved there must be equal access for all students to any organization that request state funding and support. Tax dollars are paid by everyone…gay, straight, black, white, Christian, Muslim, blind, deaf or handicapped. To allow a group to use tax dollars and then exclude a particular group of tax paying citizens means that excluded groups will be financing their own exclusion.

    Any organization that seeks state funding or recognition must be open to ALL.

    This does NOT apply to private groups where no public funding is involved. Christian groups can always refuse to admit gays. They just can’t expect the taxpayers to help fund their organization. In this respect the dissenting justices were way off base. This is not a first amendment issue. Christian groups may decide not to admit gays. They just can’t take public funds at the same time.

    If you want public funding and recognition your organization be prepared to open your doors to all taxpayers!

  6. This was probably 5-4 and not 4-5 because this isn’t the sort of slanted opinion that Kennedy is being paid for.

  7. “free association and free exercise.”

    I have heard there ain’t nothing free. Everything has a cost whether it social or financial.

    If you want an all white country club, you have to pay extra for it. Look at the Dallas Country Club.

    Think about the Masters Tournament in Georgia. No Black people were allowed, save caddy’s and other employees until this kid by the name Tiger Woods. They did not want to let them in and the Major Networks could not get advertiser to advertise so the owners of the Country Club bought the airtime, so they could be discriminatory. You see the social, financial aspect here.

    Two colleges that want to practice discrimination are christian faith based schools. What a contradiction. They accept No Federal Financial Aid so they don’t have to allow known gays and blacks. It is a private school.

  8. Norris Hall,

    Religious organizations are often exempted from property and income taxes yet still receive government services. Should that be changed so that religions are regulated and taxed like a business?

    Government subsidizes student lending and grants even to students at private universities. Yet those schools may discriminate based on sex or religion. Should those government loan programs be ended? Or should all-female schools be closed to avoid “excluded groups… financing their own exclusion”?

    Race can be considered in admissions to public universities. This allows publicly funded colleges to create higher standards for Asians than other minorities. Is that equality?

  9. Puzzling:

    Which is why Hillsdale College does not take any government financial aid. They admit based on merit and provide money for those students who cannot afford the cost of going but are qualified.

    I wonder how much tuition fees have increased because government is funding the cost of college for most people. Which begs the question-what for? I would say the answer is to make people dependent on government.

    Courting the girl with other people’s bubblegum seems to be a principle of our government.

    From there web site:

    “Because Hillsdale College chooses to remain completely financially independent, we allocate over $14,000,000 to financial aid, resulting in an average aid package of nearly $12,000 per student.”

    That is a little less than half of the $28,000 yearly cost. Who says the private sector cant provide for the needs of people and much more efficiently to boot.

  10. Norris Hall:

    “This does NOT apply to private groups where no public funding is involved. Christian groups can always refuse to admit gays. They just can’t expect the taxpayers to help fund their organization. In this respect the dissenting justices were way off base. This is not a first amendment issue. Christian groups may decide not to admit gays. They just can’t take public funds at the same time.”

    What about the rights of the people who pay taxes that are against homosexuality? Your idea of rights is a one way street. That is why government should not be involved in any of this. This can cut both ways and why I bring up the question.

  11. Puzzling,

    1. I have no problem with churches being taxed and regulated like the businesses they are. If they are treated in this manner, however, then they should be able to have all of the political advantages that businesses have as well. Pastors could blatantly endorse candidates from the pulpit. Various churches/denominations/etc. could form PACs. One set of rules for all businesses.

    2. Good points on the college financial aid issues. Is the government’s argument that it is funding the (taxpayer) student and not the discriminating institution? I am not well versed in this area.

    3. I have real problems with race based admissions.

  12. AdoringFan,

    I raise the college financial aid issue because it seems like a lever for government to limit freedom of association at private universities after the result in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.

    If government can mandate “all comers” policies for student groups, will that now be extended to fraternities, sororities, and sports teams?

  13. Byron,

    You made a point that few really understand: heavily subsidized student aid has allowed the cost of college tuitions to soar while the quality of a college education has fallen. Not only that, but we haven’t even borrowed the hundreds of billions necessary to bail out underfunded pension systems for state university workers! There’s always next year.

    I wonder how much tuition fees have increased because government is funding the cost of college for most people. Which begs the question-what for? I would say the answer is to make people dependent on government.

    Although our kind and benevolent government won’t let you bankrupt your way out of student debt, put in ten years of government service and all will be forgiven!

  14. puzzling,

    Technically there is a bankruptcy exception for student loans. It’s called the “undue hardship” exception. It’s almost impossible to prove though. You have to prove that you cannot maintain a living and pay back the loans, that you made efforts to pay and that the situation you are in is likely to continue. There is also the ability to consolidate them and eliminate some charges under Ch. 13 Bankruptcy.

  15. All school funded clubs should be banned. (If the point is fairness).

    Freedom of association trumps discrimination so I don’t see how the court could rule as it did unless it ignored the Constitution.

    Freedom of association presumes discrimination. Discriminating is good or bad depending on the context. For example, it is good to exclude thieves from your annual Christmas bash.

  16. “All school funded clubs should be banned. (If the point is fairness). ”

    Tootie I think another way to say ‘fairness’ in this instance is equal protection under the law. To be exclusionary to one set of peeps, who are not aside of the law, may not necessarily abridge that right but to purposefully support a party in doing so…certainly does.

  17. Woosty:

    I understand your point. But if non-Christians are allowed to come into the club take governing positions and run things against how Christians would, then there is no point in having a Christian club.

    Therefore exclude them all, equally protected.

    Let them have clubs on campus at their own expense. The funding is the thing.

  18. Question to Elana Kagan on Don’t Ask/Tell Recruitment: US Recruits are not informed of Bush-created $25 Death Sentence Rewards for Captured US POW, which caused death of my nephew, PFC Kristian Menchaca, who was captured with PFC Thomas Tucker in Yosifiya, Iraq, 16 June 2006, both barbarically tortured to death as a consequence of Blood Money deficient Life Rewards which are not explained to recruits.
    SEE: christianmenchaca.com/publisher.php
    Terrorists continue video recordings of the tortures on the Web.
    U.S. Reward fund wrongfully applied by the Bush administration clearly contributed to the torture deaths of captured U.S. soldier Prisoners of War denied Fourteenth Amendment equal protection of higher US offered $5 million each (average Reward life values for Terrorists) to $25 million (bin Ladin & Zawahiri) Bush assigned to captured Terrorist POW, but denied & diverted away from U.S. soldier Prisoners of War.
    PFC Kristian Menchaca & PFC Thomas Tucker were tortured to death as the consequence of insufficient 14th Reward life values (obviously insufficient Blood Money as viewed by Muslim culture) manipulated by Bush Administration; &, these insufficient Reward life values did contribute to the War Crimes applied by Muslim Terrorists against all 100% of captured U.S. soldier Prisoners of War in violations of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949.
    U.S. soldier POW would have survived if accorded their 14th Amendment equality of same Reward life values as captured terrorist Prisoners of War.
    Survival statistics clearly show 100% of U.S. soldier Prisoners of War denied equal protection of Reward life values were tortured to death & murdered (except Bowe Bergdahl) while virtually 100% of captured Terrorists with higher Reward life values survived capture.
    Of question: US diversion of U.S. Corporation donated Reward money that saved the lives of Terrorists while that same money was manipulated away from higher Reward life values for U.S. soldiers tortured to death.

  19. Mr. McKenzie, I don’t believe your question could appropriately be addressed to Ms. Kagan since it is essentially political. There is no doubt in my mind that Bush/Cheney policies have contributed mightily to the torture of American prisoners. After all, our government has adopted torture as merely another acceptable tool in the conduct of war. The Obama administration’s ratification of those policies has now made them acceptable to most Americans, a despicable fact. The result is that American soldiers are now subject to a higher risk of torture in future engagements.

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