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

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April 20, 2010
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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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