Washington, DC, June 28, 2010
The American Humanist Association expressed enthusiastic approval today of the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the 9th Circuit Court’s decision allowing the California Hastings College of the Law to deny recognition to a Christian-only student group.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in CLS v. Martinez recognizes the important purposes served by nondiscrimination policies at public universities. Equality, not religious based discrimination, is the core American principle here,” said Bob Ritter, attorney and legal coordinator of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
“As the American Humanist Association asked in its friend of the court brief, the Court found that Hastings’ ‘all comers’ policy is a reasonable, viewpoint neutral condition for using the schools facilities, funds and channels of communication,” said Ritter. “Consequently, the policy did not transgress First Amendment limitations.”
The Christian Legal Society (CLS) sued the California Hastings College of the Law in 2004 after being barred from school funding, priority access to facilities and use of Hasting’s logo. This ban was in response to the CLS’s exclusion of non-Christians and gays from voting and leadership positions. The CLS was denied its exemption request from the school’s non-discrimination policy, which prohibited student groups from discriminating on the basis of “race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation.” The District Court ruled this policy permissible and viewpoint neutral, an opinion echoed in the Supreme Court’s decision.
“Although the First Amendment may protect the CLS’s discriminatory practices off campus,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens in the concurring opinion, “it does not require a public university to validate and support them.” In the majority opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also noted the group’s capability to remain intact without official status and rejected the CLS’s assertion that unsympathetic students could sabotage the Christian group and gain control.
“This decision is a victory for humanists and students alike,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “Discrimination shouldn’t be university-funded. With this ruling, students can remain confident that their tuition money won’t be given to groups intending to exclude them.”
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org ) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists and others who advocate that one can be good without a belief in God. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.
The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is made possible through the generous support of The Anderson-Rogers Foundation, The Louis J. Appignani Foundation, The Herb Block Foundation, and The Elick and Charlotte Lindon Foundation. To donate to the Legal Center and other projects of the American Humanist Association please click here.