Religion in Society

Supreme Court To Decide if Christian Clubs Can Prefer Christian Leaders

| by Pacific Justice Institute

San Diego, CA - Pacific Justice Institute has submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the United States Supreme Court in a closely-watched free speech and association case involving a law school chapter of the Christian Legal Society.

The case, filed against UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, will test whether law schools can deny official recognition to student chapters of the Christian Legal Society. While CLS welcomes anyone to attend meetings and events, it requires that the officers and voting members who provide direction for the Society agree with and abide by the group's Statement of Faith. UC Hastings considers CLS' faith requirement to be in conflict with the school's non-discrimination policies. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of UC Hastings, relying on one of the Ninth Circuit's earlier rulings that had barred a Christian high school club from requiring that its leaders affirm a statement of faith.

PJI affiliate attorney Pete Lepiscopo, of the San Diego - Sacramento law firm of Lepiscopo & Morrow, heads PJI's San Diego office and authored the amicus brief submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Pacific Justice Institute and Christian Service Charities. The brief argues that UC Hastings' actions are inconsistent with prior Supreme Court freedom of speech and association rulings. Mr. Lepiscopo commented, "Once again, the Ninth Circuit is out of step with other federal courts around the country, which have upheld the common-sense principle that a Christian or other faith-based student club should be able to have members and leadership who agree with and abide by their statement of faith and exclude those who do not.  The implications of this case are far reaching."

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, stated, "Freedom of speech includes freedom of association. It would be absurd to demand that an atheist student club allow people of faith to become officers, or that the Democratic student club allow itself to be overrun with Republicans. Such rules would quickly destroy the identity of these and countless other groups, leading to intellectual dullness, not diversity. In the same way, we think it is self-evident that the Christian Legal Society should have the ability to choose Christian leaders for itself."