The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will hear a dispute from California involving an evangelical Christian club at a public law school that wants recognition and funding as an official campus organization, even though it discriminates on religious grounds.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the high court to use the case as a vehicle to make it clear that groups seeking public funding and official recognition on public college campuses must be open to all.
“This case is about fundamental fairness,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “If the student religious group wins, it will mean some students will be compelled to support clubs that won’t even admit them as members. That’s just not right.”
The dispute involves a branch of the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College of Law at the University of California in San Francisco. The group sought funding and official status from the school, even though it effectively bars gays and non-Christians from membership by requiring all officers and voting members to sign an evangelical Christian statement of faith.
Hastings College of Law bans discrimination against gays and lesbians, as well as religious discrimination, and officials there said they did not want to support a club that was not open to all.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hastings.
Americans United filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the appeals court and says the Supreme Court should uphold the 9th Circuit decision.
“Public schools have every right – indeed, an obligation – to refuse to advance religious discrimination,” Lynn said. “Groups that wish to engage in discrimination should not expect public subsidies.”
The case is titled Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.