Feb 23, 2010

Coolest. Brief. Ever.

I have just posted my podcast interview with Kim Colby, Senior Counsel at the Center for Law and Religious Freedom, over at the Cross & Gavel iTunesU page. Kim is lead counsel in the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case, which I have mentioned before.

As readers will recall, the case involves a Christian Legal Society student chapter that was de-recognized by the Hastings Law School administration for allegedly running afoul of the law school's anti-discrimination policy. It will be heard by the Supreme Court in April, and we expect a decision in late June.

Kim Colby is a wonderful lawyer who has been involved in the religious liberty arena for three decades, and her expertise and insight have been invaluable in building a team to represent the Christian Legal Society's interests in this case. Michael McConnell, one of the finest and most respected first amendment scholars in the country, is on board to argue the case.

The case raises interesting and important issues, and I hope you'll listen to my discussion with Kim. If the iTunes link gives you trouble, access it through the Cross & Gavel homepage.

There is one fun and interesting side note that I'd like to highlight, and it involves one of the many amici that have weighed in with friend briefs on the CLS side. Of the 21 amicus curaie briefs, the most unique is the Brief of Amici Curaie Evangelical Scholars (Officers and 24 Former Presidents of the Evangelical Theological Society), Evangelicals for Social Action, and National Association of Evangelicals in Support of Petitioner. Fortunately, the brief is more interesting -- and a bit shorter-- than its title. In fact, it is downright amazing.

What is amazing about this short (even the standard appellate mega-margins, it is a mere 20 pages) piece of advocacy is that it is a beautiful and edifying theological primer . . . and a fine legal brief. All at once.

It has to be the coolest brief ever.

The purpose of the brief is to provide the historical-theological and biblical context of the position of organizations like CLS, who sometimes take unpopular or counter-cultural stands based on Scripture, and ask their members to act out their beliefs. With great economy of words and generosity of spirit, the brief meets this goal, setting out the basics of some fundamental Christian doctrines. Here is the outline of the argument:

A. Evangelical belief concerning the Bible

B. Evangelical belief in standards of conduct for leaders and regular members

C. Interpretation and application of the moral commands of the Bible to the present

D. Not based on animosity

E. A distinction between desires and conduct is common in evangelical ethical thinking

F. The Bible’s teaching on sexual conduct

G. Agreement among evangelical groups

H. CLS’s belief concerning the Bible leads to its Statement of Faith and its interpretation of the Statement

I. An attempt to compel disobedience to the Word of God

J. Evangelical Christian churches and organizations cannot comply with such a nondiscrimination policy

K. Broader implications

Read it and marvel. But here is a taste:

There is no animosity or malice toward any group of people (such as adulterers or homosexuals) that has played any role in the formulation of the CLS Statement of Faith and its interpretation, or in the practice of similar policies by Christian groups throughout history, or in the inclusion of these moral standards in the Bible in the first place. Indeed, animosity toward any such group would be contrary to the Bible itself, for it would violate the command of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) and even to “[l]ove your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27).

Therefore it would not be surprising that a student who was known to engage in homosexual conduct would nonetheless be regularly welcomed at CLS meetings at Hastings College of Law, though not invited to become a voting member. This is exactly what one would expect from Christian students seeking to be obedient to both the biblical standards of sexual conduct for leaders and members and the biblical commands to love one’s neighbor.

Good stuff.

(By the way, all the briefs are accessible from the CLS website).

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