Suing for the Right to Discriminate

What happens when freedom of religion comes face-to-face with anti-discrimination policies? We’ll find out soon.

The Supreme Court is about to consider a case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, against the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law. A campus religious group called the Christian Legal Society claims they are being denied religious freedom and free speech because the college is requiring them to follow its anti-discrimination policy. The group refuses to allow gay students and nonbelievers into its leadership, while still expecting to remain an official student organization.

To become a voting member in the Christian Legal Society, students are required to sign a statement of faith showing support for “biblical principles of sexual morality.” The group also explicitly includes in their statement that those who advocate or engage in homosexual conduct cannot be voting members or group leaders.

The Christian Legal Society is not being denied their religious freedom. They are free to continue as an organization — and discriminate against gay people — as long as they give up their funding. The public university is funded by taxpayer money, and all clubs must practice non-discrimination in order to be recognized by the school. School policy dictates that any officially recognized student organizations cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex, or sexual orientation. Members of the Christian Legal Society are expecting special rights by challenging the school for not funding their discriminatory behavior.

The Christian Legal Society says that they are being denied religious freedom, yet they feel entitled to deny others of their religious freedom. An LGBT student organization (or any other student organizations, for that matter) would not be recognized by the school if the organization had exclusive membership requirements. I somehow doubt that the Christian Legal Society would keep quiet if their tax money was going toward an organization that discriminated against Christians because of “free speech.”

Free speech and government-sponsored discrimination are two very different things. If groups want to discriminate against gay people, they should not expect funding from the government. But this religious student organization should not have the privilege or special right of official school recognition without following the same rules as all the other student organizations.

Photo credit: dbking