13 April 2011 – Salt Lake City
In the article, “Religious clubs face hurdles on campuses,” appearing in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News on 13 April 2011, journalist Michael De Groote has revisted the issues raised in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, handed down by the United States Supreme Court in June 2010. [Read opinion here.] The Court in this case ruled for the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in its denial of recognition to a Christian student group that required voting members to sign a statement of faith, prohibiting “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” (and, incidentally, non-Trinitarian beliefs, such as those held by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) In a dissenting opinion, Justice Samuel Alito called the majority decision “a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country,” and blogger Ken Klukowski called the ruling a “shocking setback for religious freedom.”
De Groote’s April 2011 article chronicles related cases involving universities accusing Christian groups of discrimination, as tracked by the nonprofit organization Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. The article also included comments by BYU Law Professors Frederick Mark Gedicks and Brett G. Scharffs.
“It was a ruling that didn’t bear any resemblance to what was actually occurring on the University of California at Hastings campus,” said Professor Gedicks. “What you really want to know is can the university apply a different rule to the Christian Legal Society than they apply to every other student society. And if that is what Hasting was trying to do, I would have said that is outrageous. If you want to let students discriminate on the basis of various factors because those factors define the essence of their organization, then you must let religious organizations discriminate too. So it is all or nothing. Everybody gets to discriminate or nobody gets to discriminate.”
“Most universities just want to have a policy that will prevent them from being sued,” added Professor Scharffs. For more commentary on this issue by Professor Scharffs, see his article in the Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases.