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Can Christian student groups bar gay membership?

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 21, 2010 | 4:55 pm

I’m taking Con Law this semester, so I’ve been particularly attune to the cases the Supreme Court has been hearing. This one was of particular interest to this blog:

The Supreme Court appeared deeply divided Monday over whether a college’s insistence that student organizations be open to all violates the constitutional rights of a religious group that wants to exclude gays and those who do not share its core beliefs.

If religious groups must accept anyone who wants to join, said Michael W. McConnell, the lawyer for the Christian Legal Society, “a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to demand to lead a Christian Bible study, and if CLS does not promise to allow this, the college will bar them” from official recognition.

But Gregory G. Garre, the lawyer for the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, said the university has the right to insist that any student group it recognizes agree to admit all students, regardless of status or beliefs. The theories of sabotage have no basis in fact at Hastings or “the history of American education,” he said.

After a spirited hour of arguments, it was hard to tell whether there was a majority on the court for either of those views.

I don’t want to play oddsmaker—I’ll be doing enough of that when I take my Con Law exam in two weeks—but I’d be surprised if the high court, with its current make up, upheld Hastings’ anti-discrimination policy. I’m not sure whether I agree with the district court that the policy doesn’t infringe on the student’s freedom of religion, but I definitely disagree that it doesn’t infringe on freedom of assembly. Hastings is, after all, a public law school.

For now I’m studying Contracts, and leaving you these post-argument comments from the interested parties.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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