Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

TIM O’BRIEN, correspondent: The Supreme Court is asked to consider thousands of appeals every year. The justices end up taking about one in a hundred, usually difficult cases that divide the lower courts. But few cases present the head-on collision of constitutional principles and other precious values as the case of Christian Legal Society v Leo Martinez. Martinez is the dean and acting chancellor of the Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and the defendant in this case, after his law school refused to give official recognition to the Christian Legal Society, thereby denying it funding and any right of access to school facilities.

Headquartered at this office building outside Washington, DC, the Christian Legal Society is a national network of lawyers who are guided by their Christian faith. There are student chapters at law schools across the country. The chapter at Hastings opens its meetings to all students, but members are asked to sign the Christian Legal Society statement of faith: “Trusting in Jesus Christ as my Savior, I believe in: One God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” If you don’t sign the statement of faith, you cannot vote or hold office.

post01-clsmartinezMembers must also accept the society’s sexual morality standards, which state that any “sexually immoral lifestyle” is grounds for disqualification, including “all acts of sexual conduct outside of God’s design for marriage between one man and one woman.” That was enough for Dean Martinez to deny the Christian Legal Society official law school recognition.

LEO MARTINEZ (Dean and Acting Chancellor, Hastings College of the Law): We are a public institution. When we admit students, we tell them we will admit you regardless of your beliefs, regardless of your race, regardless of whether you’re striped or not, and I think part of our promise when they come here is that they are allowed to share in the full educational experience of Hastings, and I think it’s a terrible thing that we would have to do to say, “Yes, we will admit you. Oh, but by the way there are certain groups where you’re not welcome.” And to the extent we’re a public institution and we’re using public money to fund our student groups, I think we simply can’t do that.

O’BRIEN: To Martinez, it’s a simple case of discrimination, and the law school doesn’t have to support it.

GREG BAYLOR (Attorney, Christian Legal Society): This is not discrimination. This is about shared beliefs.

O’BRIEN: Attorney Greg Baylor says requiring the Christian Legal Society to allow nonbelievers to vote and hold office strikes at the society’s very identity—its core mission.

BAYLOR: It makes no sense for a public university to force the Republicans to have a Young Democrat as their leader. It makes no sense for the environmentalists’ group to be forced to have a lumberjack who’s out there cutting down trees to be the messenger for it. The Constitution is clear about this. It protects the rights of groups to come together to articulate their messages and to choose their messengers.

post02-clsmartinez
Leo Martinez

O’BRIEN: California, and especially San Francisco, where the law school is located, has shown great tolerance of the gay and lesbian lifestyle. The city was among the nation’s first to adopt an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. For the Christian Legal Society, to deny membership to students who are gay not only violates the law school policy, it may also violate local law.

(speaking to Greg Baylor): This is discrimination based on sexual orientation.

BAYLOR: It’s not discrimination based on sexual orientation.

O’BRIEN: Well, it is—if those who are gay cannot join, and those who are not gay can join, that’s discrimination.

BAYLOR: What Christian Legal Society cares about is a person’s belief in, and commitment to, its Christian ideals. Christians traditionally have believed that sexuality is reserved for the relationship of marriage between one man and one woman. It’s not discriminatory. Christian Legal Society allows all people to come in to participate in its meetings, to be there, to witness what happens. What we’re talking about here is the ability of a group to preserve its message, and it doesn’t make sense for a public university to say to a private student group you have to give up your Christian faith in order to get the same privileges that other groups have.

O’BRIEN: The teachings of the Christian faith dominate the meetings. At this meeting at a law school in Virginia, students brainstormed over whether their faith required them to adhere to a higher ethical standard than the profession itself requires.

post03-clsmartinezCHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY STUDENT: In addition to being lawyers we’re Christians, and we have standards as Christians we want to live up to.

O’BRIEN: The signature activities of CLS chapters are weekly Bible studies, which in addition to discussion of the text usually include prayer and other forms of worship.

O’BRIEN: Would a student chapter of, say, B’nai B’rith, a Jewish Anti-Defamation League, have to admit Muslims?

MARTINEZ: The short answer is yes.

O’BRIEN: A black group would have to admit white supremacists?

MARTINEZ: It would.

O’BRIEN: Even if it means a black student organization is going to have to admit members of the Ku Klux Klan?

MARTINEZ: Yes.

O’BRIEN: You can see where that might cause some consternation?

MARTINEZ: Well, there’s a Spanish saying to the effect that “the thinnest of tortillas still has two sides,” and the other side of that is that with any other regime we would be forced, using public money, to subsidize the discriminatory practices of a particular group.

O’BRIEN: This case reaches the Supreme Court at a time in the nation’s history when our society and our law are much more supportive of inclusion than they are of exclusion. Laws have sprung up in cities and states against discrimination that go far beyond anything the Constitution might require. Yet the First Amendment also guarantees freedom of association, a fundamental right to gather with whomever we choose and collectively express ourselves. The danger in this case is that it may be impossible for the Supreme Court to reconcile this dispute without compromising one of those cherished principles.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Tim O’Brien at the Supreme Court.

  • Bill

    Why is is that when people who call themselves followers of Christ come out of the woodwork, it is ALWAYS and ONLY to fight for their right to treat others badly?

    What WOULD Jesus do?

    I think we know.

  • Sue Dallal

    I am a Christian and I try to uphold the Christian values, yet I think Dean Martinez is right.
    The constitution upholds the right of groups to associates but that right does not grant them the ability to receive support from public funds.
    Maybe a better association for the group is belonging to a church.

  • John Devine

    I have noticed over the last 40 years or so, that whenever a religious group seeks the use of tax dollars, that group is invariably Christian. Perhaps I have overlooked other groups, if they exist, they are a very small minority.
    Christians have been seeking to codify their beliefs in secular law since the founding of this country. In his closing to the segment Correspondent Tim O’Brien cites the First Amendment “right of free association’.
    I have cited the exact text of the First Amendment below:

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

    As you can clearly see this “right of free association” is not mentioned here. This is, however, a phrase that has been used consistantly by those seeking to descriminate against people that they do not like.
    Mr. OBrien’s bias is clear. It is also clear that he is not above lying in order to try to legitimize the regular and consistant attempts by Christians to require everyone to adhere to their beliefs.

  • David Hnath

    What everyone seems to be missing is that no one is excluding the association of ANYONE- only the ability of non-Christians to govern the organization. Anyone can attend and meet, go to the Bible studies, etc. What exclusion of association is there in that?

  • Tom Moorhouse

    The “right of the people peaceably to assemble’ is very clear. There is a difference between the law school subsidizing the CLS and allowing the group to have its own rules and regulations.

    This is the classic case of the gov’ts use of “the one who believes more must give way to those who believe less” in the name of tolerance. it always leads to “the one who believes less gives way to him who believes nothing” and it this state of banal, inclusion of everything and everyone that remains.

    The Supreme Court will rule in favor of CLS simply because their is no coersion in having standards of conduct in a group that is formed to promote these standards. How discriminatory is it to allow a KKK member to chair the NAACP? That is the point that O’Brian makes that is laughable!

  • Charles Sawyer

    Mr. Martinez made a good point when he said any group in his school would have to allow any type of member to join that group, when Mr. O’Brien ask if a black studies group would have to allow a white supremacists to join. Inclusion is how we learn about each others differences. Maybe the supremacists as well as the black group may learn something and that would be a good thing. I disagree with Mr. Baylor when he said the Christian Legal Society is not discriminating, when it is. The argument he uses, if Republicans was force to have a Democratic leader, is a poor example because there he is talking politics not religion and the C.L.S. is a religious group. I hope Mr. Martinez win this case because a line must be drawn on religion infiltrating the laws.

  • Aceriter

    This is the kind of problem that will grow anywhere the people are told by government who they can like and who they should not like. I personally believe in some forms of discrimination, one major form being homosexuals. By that I do not mean that I want the right to bother or harass them in any way. I don’t care if they exist or do not exist. It’s none of my business.

    But when they try to force their culture and beliefs into my culture and beliefs, then I have the right to react negatively toward them. Since all cultures and beliefs are not equal this would be a normal reaction because there is no moral equivalence between them and me. My culture and beliefs are superior and I should have the right to maintain them. If this is discrimination, then so be it. I even appreciate the fact that my wife is a discriminating shopper.

  • Tim O’Brien

    Correspondent O’Brien replies to John Devine. Thank you for your e-mail and sharing your thoughts about this important case. You are quite correct that any right to gather with like minded individuals for the purpose of expressing an idea–like many rights–is not expressly found in the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has repeatedly identified a right of “expressive association” as within the guarantees of the First Amendment. See Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) Inc., 547 U.S. 47, 68 (2006.) More than 25-years ago (and ever since), the Court has held that “There can be no clearer example of an intrusion into the internal structure or affairs of an association” then forcing it to relinquish control to those who do not share its message. See Roberts v. U.S. Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984). Prof. Laurence Tribe, the highly acclaimed Harvard Law guru and and staunch defender of separation of church and state, has written, “Freedom of Association would prove an empty guarantee if associations could not limit control over their decisions to those who share the interests and persuasions that underlie the Association’s being.” Laurence Tribe, American Constitutional Law, 791 (1978.) None of the above directly settles the questions the CLS case raises, but they do demonstrate that–like most Supreme Court cases–they are not as simple as the writer would have one believe.

  • Eugene Pistorese

    The real irony in this story is that Martinez is really caught between what his words mean and what he thinks that his practice should be because of what he believes, “…we tell [students] we will admit you regardless of what you believe…” While it is ironic to tell the also, “Oh, but by the way, there are certain groups where you are not welcome,” that practice may well be part of the phenomenon of practicing “we will admit you regardless.”

    I don’t particularly care whether the Christian Legal Society is recognized at this school–and if the board of the society actually read the words of their Lord, Jesus Christ, neither would they–but I can empathize with their frustration at hearing someone say “we have an open policy–you can’t come in” in much the same way as I can empathize with Dean Martinez not wanting to have exclusionists represented on his campus. Still, as soon as he said “no exclusionists,” he became one.

  • Fr. Ian Yorston

    Common sense frequently is lacking in this types of arguments. Martinez says that “we admit you regardless of your beliefs”, so this would include Christians right? What makes a group distinctly Christian- the Christian Legal Society has identified that for their group. If we cannot clearly identify who we are and what we believe in and what we stand for, what do we have? If we have no clear and distinct identity, don’t we become just a bowl of mashed potatoes. If we don’t stand for anything in particular don’t we lose our identity and our direction? This group isn’t discriminating, it is defining its identity. It is embracing the Constitution. As committed Christians they don’t hate anyone but they do wish to define who they are. Martinez is discriminating against them because of their identity. Common sense tells us to recognize this group just as much as anyother group.

  • Samuel Blair

    A brief look at UC Hasting’s Law Center student organizations page is interesting: (http://www.uchastings.edu/prospective-students/student-life/student-orgs.html)

    There are groups for Asian-American, Black, Feminist, Vietnamese, Native American, Iranian, and Jewish students, just for example. There are groups for feminists, environmentalists, animal law, and so on. Do these groups pass the same rigor as that set against the CLS?

    Also, there is also listed a Law Students Christian Fellowship; is this the same group as the CLS? If not, it’s apparent that they are at least accepting of a Christian group in principle. It could be something else under the surface that is causing the friction if there is opposition to only this particular group, if Christian students are already able to meet and organize on campus with public funds.

  • Donna

    This case is not whether CLS can exist as a group, meet on campus, or discuss its beliefs with like minded persons. It’s about whether the school must provide tax dollars to support a group that discriminates against law students who don’t swear to share the groups’ values ot mission.

  • Rich

    It is clear that the bible condemns the sin of homosexuality in both the old and new testament. Christians look at the act of homosexuality as sin because it is. When someone wants to come into a group and say that it is not a sin then they have become hostile to the Christian groups message. Those who claim homosexuality is not sin can’t point to the bible as it clearly says it is. I as a Christian will not change God’s word based on mans opinion or even a court ruling. This problem will never go away as you will always have men that hate God’s word and those men like me that love it.

  • Bishop Mark Shirilau

    The case lumps two issues together. For a Christian group to require its members to be Christian is part of its definition, and that should be allowed. When that same group limits itself to Christians who happen to follow its narrow definition of “morality,” then it becomes discriminatory. There are many gay Christians and many Christians who don’t limit heterosexual expression to marriage. It the group is about being Christian, sex has nothing to do with it. To carry on the racial discrimination analogy presented in the article, a group formed by blacks to promote racial equality should have to allow white students. It should not have to allow white supremecists. I would hope the Supreme Court would have the wisdom to distinguish between these two issues, but if both sides lump them together, the court might miss the point.

  • Peter Terminello

    This case is difficult to balance. To join the Christian group is a right according to the Law School which sponsors the group. The issue is joining. Let anyone join, but as a part of membership, an applicant must profess certain Christian tenets. This might make potential applicants uncomfortable. The group is about Christianity and if anyone wants to join they obviously want to adopt Christian ideals so they should have no problem adhering to the principles of the group. Maybe they aree seeking a community and may pledge to Christian idels and later change their minds. This does not say they can join. If a Muslim wants to join the society then they should and they should have no trouble pledging to the ideals of the society. They may not believe them but they can acknowledge they are the basis of the group. It can be confusing. Let anyone join and let them take a pledge to honor Christian ideals. Some Christians may not fully believe all the ideals but their intention also is to honor them.

  • Bob McCoy

    What does any of this have to do with trying to live as Christ lived?

  • Mark Hudson

    The assertion that a Christian group or any Christian group would meet just for the express purpose of treating others badly, as “Bill” suggests is a classic example of defamation and ludicrous in the extreme. The vast majority of Christian gatherings, as anyone truly informed would know, is to help others, not mistreat or defame them. Hospitals, soup kitchens, Christian counseling centers, and even campus groups have positive goals, interests and methods, in fulfillment of the Great Commandment given by Christ to love others. Loving others never becomes an endorsement of any and every lifestyle, attitude, behavior, and attitude. Such a notion is rationally flawed, as if to say we only “love” our children if we approve of everything they do. Why would a college women’s swim team be allowed to exclude men? Is that “discrimination?” The whole PC thing has gone way over the top. It defies logic and common sense to force people to open doors to those who would certainly NOT be there to give full support to whatever their cause or intent is. More likely it would be to disrupt or undermine, and why should any group be forced to grant them admission? I would be willing to guess that if the Supreme Court questions every group on that campus, all will have some criterian to belong that could be construed to constitute some form of “discrimination.” Are you going to deny tax dollars to them? A simple solution would be to deny DIRECT tax dollars to all, and allow indirect access/support to any that are legal.

  • Carol

    I think so many have it wrong. No one is saying that they cannot set their own membership criteria, no matter how abhorrent those criteria may be. They have the right to do that. What they do not have the right to do is force another entity to recognize and subsidize their discrimination. That they do not have a right to do.

    Freedom of association goes both ways, and the University also enjoys that right.

  • Paul

    This case is far more complex than many seem to realize. One aspect of the case is the trend of Christian Evangelicals to seek to participate more fully in the public life of their communities in the United States, beginning especially in the 1970′s & 1980′s. Tied to this is the question of whether Christian students who want to form organizations that represents their perspective can receive recognition but public authorities at educational institutions. My own view is that the argument that Hasting’s policy is content neutral is both invalid and insincere. Like most policies at contemporary colleges and universities that promote “diversity” and “inclusion,” this policy is a thinly veiled attempt at indoctrination into a particular mode of contemporary liberal political and legal doctrine. This approach uses a claim of government neutrality to prevent the expression of controversial opinions rooted in comprehensive moral or religious doctrines based on the idea that they are inconsistent with our civil conversation. Thus it attacks the authenticity of cultural dissenters.

  • Nowell Sanders

    I have glanced over some of the comments that have been made about the Supreme Court’s ruling relative to the Christian Legal Society’s right to ask members of their organization to be of the same mind when it comes to being fully recognized members of their group. I am not as smart as most of these people who have made comments about this ruling. I am only smart enough to realize that common sense should prevail, and that the Christian Legal Society should be allowed to require members, who wish to participate fully in the organization’s activities, to adhere to their request to sign a ‘statement of faith’. Also they should be allowed to require that those who sign the ‘statement of faith’ be true and honest in their belief of this statement.

  • Shucky

    why should christians have less freedom of association than anyone? do you think it is okay for people to join, for the purpose of being disruptive, any of a host of advocacy groups, such as democrats, socialists, gays, communists, progressives, “pro-choicers”, feminists, muslims, greens, latinos, blacks, vegans, whatever? i am agnostic and have no problem with a club barring me for non-belief in religious dogma. we are not talking about work or school or housing or food, but simple association. groups have a right to spend their leisure time with others with whom they bond, and exclude those they don’t. who is the government to tell you who you must spend your leisure time with, especially if those people are joining you to be disruptive?

    if christians arent willing to disrupt other groups in righteoous retaliation for this unjust ruling, it is up to others to do it for them. i am tired of leftists thinking they can trample others’ right and not have it effect them. anyone who says that christians shouldnt have the same freedom of association enjoyed by anyone else is an enemy of christianity, especially if they try to use christian tolerance and forgiveness as a weapon against you.

  • Jim

    Leo Martinez is no doubt very learned and a very gifted scholar. But, his position that white supremacists must be allowed to join (and vote, hold office and potentially control) a black student organization is absurd. Same goes for the other examples cited, as well as numerous other similar situations. Leo’s reasoning falls apart because his argument cannot sustain a test of being applied broadly and universally. Leo himself has reduced his own argument to absurdity.

  • hsphiliac

    Mr. Martinez seeks to discriminate against Christians. He says the door is open to anyone regardless of their beliefs, but that is obviously not true.

  • john

    Although it is not explicitly protected in the First Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled, in NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449 (1958), freedom of association to be a fundamental right protected by it. In Roberts v. United States Jaycees, 468 U.S. 609 (1984), the Supreme Court held that associations may not exclude people for reasons unrelated to the group’s expression. However, in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, 515 U.S. 557 (1995), the Court ruled that a group may exclude people from membership if their presence would affect the group’s ability to advocate a particular point of view. Likewise, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, 530 U.S. 640 (2000), the Supreme Court ruled that a New Jersey law, which forced the Boy Scouts of America to admit an openly gay member, to be an unconstitutional abridgment of the Boy Scouts’ right to free association.

  • john

    There are two issues here, the first is that CLS does not discriminate against gays. Simply put you have to believe and practice what the bible teaches about sex and marriage. That means if you are straight but an adulterer or practice pre-marital sex, then you would also be excluded, just like if you practiced of believed in gay sex. This is not discrimination based on sexuality, this is requiring leaders to follow biblical principles. The second issue is that UC Hastings is actaully discriminating against CLS because they do not enforce this everyone must be allowed in policy against all groups. In fact they only enforce it against CLS. The La Raza group says to be a leader you must be of hispanic lineage. The Muslim student group requires you be a follower of Islam, there are many student organizations that require criteria for leadership and yet CLS is the only one being banned….

  • Steve Steiner

    I think it is funny that there is so much focus on homosexuality here, as though this issue was raised by the Christian group. Really what the Christian group says and brings to the forefront as an issue is chastity, regardless of sexual orientation. They say themselves on their website (http://www.clsnet.org/law-students/cls-v-martinez-some-thoughts-recent-supreme-court-decision) “Despite media coverage to the contrary, CLS groups do not “ban gays” from attending meetings or concern themselves with “sexual orientation.” The requirement of chastity outside of marriage is something that the law school seized upon as “discriminatory.” It is a rule that CLS has applied to all, regardless of sexual orientation. CLS cares about conduct, not orientation.” So regarding some comments (especially the first) would Jesus care about conduct? If you don’t think so, you clearly don’t know much about Jesus, or his teachings. This case is another example of a message of love being twisted into a message of hate, by people who aren’t Christians, and often know little about Christian teachings.

  • naples aircraft dealers

    The assertion that a Christian group or any Christian group would meet just for the express purpose of treating others badly, as “Bill” suggests is a classic example of defamation and ludicrous in the extreme. The vast majority of Christian gatherings, as anyone truly informed would know, is to help others, not mistreat or defame them. Hospitals, soup kitchens, Christian counseling centers, and even campus groups have positive goals, interests and methods, in fulfillment of the Great Commandment given by Christ to love others. Loving others never becomes an endorsement of any and every lifestyle, attitude, behavior, and attitude. Such a notion is rationally flawed, as if to say we only “love” our children if we approve of everything they do. Why would a college women’s swim team be allowed to exclude men? Is that “discrimination?” The whole PC thing has gone way over the top. It defies logic and common sense to force people to open doors to those who would certainly NOT be there to give full support to whatever their cause or intent is. More likely it would be to disrupt or undermine, and why should any group be forced to grant them admission? I would be willing to guess that if the Supreme Court questions every group on that campus, all will have some criterian to belong that could be construed to constitute some form of “discrimination.” Are you going to deny tax dollars to them? A simple solution would be to deny DIRECT tax dollars to all, and allow indirect access/support to any that are legal.