much more on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

The several links at the bottom are the main purpose of this post. I’d encourage you to have at least a working knowledge of this case, since nobody’s really sure how it might show up on YOUR campus this fall or in the future.

Because of the holiday, I’ll see you next on Tuesday – so take some time with this one if you can!

The Supreme Court’s decision this week against the claims made by the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College of the Law was a very important decision for a field, in no small part because Collegiate Ministry has very few cases of settled law to point to.

In case you haven’t been keeping up:

  • Hastings (a public law school) has established a policy requiring all officially recognized student organizations allow any and all students to participate at any position.
  • The Christian Legal Society has official members (unlike most college ministry groups), and it requires these members to abide by certain practices and hold certain beliefs.
  • Therefore, Hastings would not allow CLS to become an official student organization (though it did allow it access to the campus, etc.).

For now, it’s also important to note that…

The complete case hasn’t, in fact, been settled. The litigation is going back to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in order to test the claim that Hastings inconsistently applied its rule (that kept CLS from being allowed as a recognized student org). As the case proceeds, the importance for the rest of us seems to be how definitively Hastings will be required to follow its own rule (called in many of this week’s articles an “all-comers policy”). If in the weeks or months to come it becomes abundantly clear that

  • this “all-comers” rule must apply equally to all groups on the campus (i.e., that all groups must allow all students access to all positions, even if those students are hostile to the purposes of the group),
  • that many groups are thereby threatened by a potential “takeover” or simply interference from hostile students,
  • and/or that the policy at Hastings is indeed very unique among public colleges and universities,

then the rest of us may not be much affected. In fact, it seems the more clarity on this, the better; my largest concern is not that campuses will faithfully apply this ruling, but that they’ll incorrectly apply this ruling in an overreaching way.

Again, it’s important to recognize that the ruling was narrow, directly testing whether a college ministry was, in fact, running afoul of a very specific, unusual policy. The dissenters (it was, after all, a narrow 5-4 vote) went after the rule itself as absurd.

So for more, some of the items you might find most helpful:

Still perhaps the best for a solid, easy-to-read analysis: Christianity Today’s extensive, balanced, and very helpful synopsis, which I linked the other day.

InterVarsity’s press release on the decision (with links to more) – IV seems to have dealt with more such cases in recent years than anybody, so it’s especially helpful to hear their take

Vikram Amar’s academic look at why and how the Supremes reached their decision – really helps understand the workings of the court, regardless of whether you agree with the author’s thoughts on the decision

Adam Goldstein at the Huffington Post likewise examines the Supreme Court’s process here, but unlike Amar above believes the decision “sucker punches the First Amendment”

David Opderbeck wrote about the case at the Jesus Creed blog awhile back; now he and others have several careful reflections at their Law, Religion, and Ethics blog (and regularly dialogue with each other in the comments), starting with Robert Vischer’s original reflection here.

This week at Jesus Creed, lawyer “T” shared thoughts on the decision; as often happens at the Jesus Creed blog, many comments ensued too!

Christian Legal Society obviously has some things to say; info and plenty of links can be found here; their interesting “FAQ” is here.

Hastings College of the Law’s own (brief) statement is here; also see PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly’s interview (from April) with the Dean and Acting Chancellor of Hastings, a fascinating look at how Hastings claims the policy can and should be applied

Alliance Defense Fund on what the ruling did and didn’t do, and where things go from here


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  1. Pingback: the illini & the religious teaching of religion « Exploring College Ministry blog (daily notes about our field)

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