Constitutional Law

ABA Weighs in on Law School's Side in Case Over Christian Student Group

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The American Bar Association filed an amicus curiae brief (PDF) with the U.S. Supreme Court late yesterday in a case that puts two cherished values at odds.

On the one hand, the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, like the ABA, has a policy against discrimination. On the other, it recognizes, like the ABA, that students have First Amendment rights which should not be unduly suppressed. Applying these values in a situation in which a Christian student group that excluded homosexuals and nonbelievers from participation sought funding from Hastings, the public law school correctly struck a sound and constitutional balance, refusing to lend the Hastings name to a group that violated the law school’s discrimination policy, the ABA writes.

Urging the nation’s top court to uphold a decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals OK’ing the Hastings approach, the ABA says the content- and viewpoint-neutral application of the law school’s discrimination policy to all student groups is constitutionally sound.

“As this court’s government-funding cases make plain, even though organizations that receive government financial assistance have a protected interest in the integrity of their message, public institutions may impose reasonable regulations on receipt of financial and other assistance,” the ABA brief states.

An ABA web page provides links to the briefing on both sides of the case.

Meanwhile, the Christian Legal Society says in its own brief (PDF) that a long line of cases supports the right of unpopular groups to have equal access to a community speech forum.

“It is absurd to say that non-Christians and those who do not share CLS’s views on sexual morality should be able to lead the organization, vote on its policies, select its officers, and conduct its Bible studies,” the CLS brief states, noting that anti-discrimination laws routinely carve out some exceptions for religious beliefs.

Additional coverage: “Supreme Court to Decide if Law School Can Ban Christian Legal Society”

Inside Higher Ed: “Taking Sides”

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