Religion

U.S. Supreme Court To Hear Christian Law Students' Case

December 7, 2009

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of the Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.  The group of religiously conservative law students objects to the university's policy of prohibiting student organizations recognized by the university from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. Only students who affirm what the Christian Legal Society calls "orthodox Christian beliefs" can be voting members. The group claims that the university's policy violates its religious freedom to exclude people who do not share their beliefs. The university, in enforcing its policy, said that a public university should not be compelled to subsidize groups that discriminate.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the university in March. 

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The high court will decide whether the Christian Legal Society must abide by UC Hastings College of the Law's non-discrimination policy for student groups

Supreme Court Upholds Law School's Non-Discrimination Policy

June 29, 2010

On the final day of its 2009 term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the University of California's Hastings College of the Law did not violate the First Amendment rights of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) by insisting that the organization comply with the school's non-discrimination policy that is applicable to all student clubs in order to receive official recognition and funding.

The group of religiously conservative law students objected to the policy of prohibiting student organizations recognized by the university from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. CLS bans from membership lesbian and gay students and those who do not sign a Statement of Faith which, among other things, indicates that sexual activity should only occur within a heterosexual marriage.

In an opinion for the court's majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote that the law school's policy of requiring student clubs to be open to "all-comers" is reasonable and is viewpoint neutral. She streesed that disqualifying the Christian Legal Society from official recognition does not prohit it from continuing to meet on campus and to continue excluding lesbian and gay students.  "CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings' policy," Ginsburg noted.

Writing for the court's four dissenters, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the majority opinion results in "no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning."

In a concurring opinion, retiring Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that a free society must tolerate groups that "may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks, and women."  But, he added, a free society "need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur or grant them equal access to law school facilities.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote, joined the majority and wrote a concurring opinion. "A vibrant dialogue," he stated, "is not possible if students wall themselves off from opposing points of view." Referring to CLS's compulsory Statement of Faith, he added, "The era of loyalty oaths is behind us," alluding to Cold War-era oaths, including one required of all California state employees, compelling signers to conform to specific political beliefs of the time.

 

Justices rule that Hastings College of the Law can deny official recognition to the Christian Legal Society because membership in the group is not open to all students.

The Right to Religious Freedom

This lesson is meant to accompany or follow a larger discussion of the Bill of Rights.  Students will learn why minority religious communities are vulnerable to violations of their religious liberty, how times of social stress or war create a set of conditions that threaten civil liberties, how the judicial branch can function to protect minority populations against popular prejudice as expressed through local officials, how judges sometimes have to weigh Constitutional protections against competing claims, and how the appeals process can function to maximize plaintiffs' opportunities to protect their rights and set a wider precedent to protect others in similar circumstances.

Help us evaluate this lesson plan.

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Sikh Religious Musicians Settle with US Airways

December 14, 2009

Three internationally renowned Sikh religious musicians reached a settlement with US Airways one year after they were removed from a flight at the Sacramento International Airport in an incident of racial and religious profiling and discrimination. After the removal, the trio filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation. The musicians, Davinder Singh, Gulbag Singh and Iqbal Singh, are classical religious performers who perform in Sikh Gurdwaras (houses of worship) around the world. Sikhs wearing turbans, as the musicians do, have increasingly been subject to harassment and discrimination after September 11, particularly at airports, as have many other ethnic and religious groups.

Despite federal law prohibiting airlines from targeting and removing passengers based on their religious or ethnic appearance, the trio was subjected to biased treatment from US Airways after passengers expressed baseless concerns about the musicians’ appearance.

Shortly after passing through TSA screening without incident and peacefully boarding a US Airways flight, the men were ordered to leave the plane. They complied with the removal. However, airline employees did not provide any explanation as to why they were being removed, but they were told, through a Panjabi interpreter, that the pilot would not fly with them on board. After suffering humiliation in front of other passengers, the musicians were each handed a $5 meal voucher and forced to delay their travel until the next day. They experienced no problems boarding the Delta flight on which they were rebooked. 

The airline did not provide any legitimate security concerns justifying the removal. As terms of the settlement, the Chairman and CEO of US Airways issued an apology to the musicians. The musicians also received an undisclosed amount in compensation for the incident.

This settlement comes just after US Airways' recent settlement in a federal lawsuit in which six Muslim relgious leaders alleged that they had been removed from a flight based on their religious and ethnic backgrounds.

In 1994, the school district in the Central Valley town of Livingston suspended three Sikh children for wearing a kirpan, a small ceremonial knife which baptized Sikhs must wear at all times. After negotiations with the school district failed, the Sikh family sued. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the school had to make all reasonable efforts to accomodate the religious beliefs and practices of the children. The district ultimately allowed the children to wear kirpans that had been blunted and firmly sewed into their sheaths.

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Three world renowned Sikh religious musicians who had been removed from a US Airways flight for no valid safety reason reached a settlement with the airline.

Governor Acts on Civil Liberties Bills

October 2, 2012

Facing a September 30 deadline to decide on proposed legislation, Governor Brown took action on several civil liberties-related bills impacting workers, immigrants, LGBT youth, clergy, and the criminal justice system.

Workers:  He vetoed a bill that would have provided labor protections like overtime pay and meal breaks for domestic workers.  He also vetoed proposals allowing farmworkers to sue employers who deprive them of water and shade.

Immigrants:  The governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited local law enforcement agencies from detaining individuals for suspected immigration violations unless accused of a violent or serious crime. He approved legislation allowing undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to obtain driver's licenses.

LGBT Youth: Governor Brown signed legislation prohibiting psychotherapists from discredited efforts designed to change a young person's sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Religion: He signed a bill clarifying that no clergy members would be forced to perform marriages that run contrary to their religous beliefs.

Criminal Justice:  The governor approved a bill allowing approximately 300 prisoners, issued life sentences as juveniles, the opportunity to appeal for shorter prison terms.

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In the final two days before a legislative deadline, Governor Brown signed and vetoed numerous bills impacting civil liberties

[Chapter 08] Keeping the Faith: The Right to Religious Freedom

Three Navajos in the desert community of Needles challenged a state drug law in 1962 as a violation of their religious freedom.

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Majority of Californians View State's Diversity as Asset and Challenge

January 28, 2010

The findings of a new field poll show that 58 percent of California voters consider the diversity of the state's population both an advantage but also a source of problems. More respondents (24%) said they considered California's diversity only an asset, while fewer (14%) believe it is only a challenge.

Since statehood, California has been a place of incredible diversity, as people, albeit mostly men, from all over the globe came to the state because of the gold rush. In recent years, the state's diversity has been the focus of initiative battles that have targeted the civil liberties of minority groups. In 1994, voters approved Proposition 187 which was meant to deny state services to undocumented immigrants. The law never went into effect because Governer Gray Davis did not pursue the state's defense of the propostion after state and federal judges barred implementation of the law. In 1996, Proposition 209, which banned affirmative action in state programs, passed by 54%. And in 2008, voters altered the state constitution to deny gay men and lesbians the right to marry.

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Field Poll director calls findings hopeful as California voters are more positive than negative about the state's diverse demographics.

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Christian Law Students Case

April 20, 2010

On April 19, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the lawsuit of the Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.  The group of religiously conservative law students objects to the university's policy of prohibiting student organizations recognized by the university from discriminating on the basis of race, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. Only students who sign a statement of faith and reject what the Christian Legal Society considers "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle'' can be voting members.

Representing the law school, attorney Gregory Garre, a solicitor general in the Bush administration, framed the issue before the court as one of not forcing the university to recognize and subsidize groups that discriminate.

Stanford law school professor Michael McConnell, arguing for the Christian Legal Society, maintained that the organization should be able to control its membership and leadership by excluding members who do not share its beliefs.

The court appeared split. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and retiring Justice John Paul Stevens made inquiries that appeared supportive of the university's position. Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice John Roberts asked questions and made comments that seemed to be supportive of the Christian Legal Society.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, a frequent swing vote in close decisions, expressed frustration about the case.

The court will issue its decision by the end of June.

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Justices appear split on whether the conservative religious group can discriminate and still receive official recognition and funding from a public university.

Religion: 1936

Charlotte GabrielliCharlotte GabrielliCharlotte Gabrielli, a Jehovah’s Witness, is expelled from her Sacramento elementary school for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which violated her religious beliefs.

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