Apr 17, 2010

CLS v. Martinez Oral Arguments

Monday morning at 10 am eastern, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a case that will have a lasting impact on how religious student groups are treated by public universities.

Video and transcript of PBS's Religion & Ethics Weekly piece on the case, airing on television tomorrow, are available already online. The reporting is fine, and it's a pretty balanced piece, yet the issues need more than a five-minute treatment. Here are just a few of the misconceptions that might remain after one watches the interview:

  • "CLS discriminates based on sexual orientation, but thinks that its right to associational speech trumps the other issues." This isn't true. Conduct, not orientation is what is prohibited by CLS, and CLS asks all of its members, whatever their "orientation," to abstain from sex outside of traditional marriage.
  • "This case is about public funds." Not so. Leo Martinez, in the PBS interview, says that because Hastings funds their groups with "public money," they can't fund a group like the Christian Legal Society. In reality, all student groups are funded by student activity fees. While CLS students are forced to pay for gay rights advocacy with their fees, their voice is silenced because of their particular beliefs about the way the world works.
  • "CLS wants treatment that is different from other student groups on campus." This is not true, either. All groups, even religious groups, have the right to choose their leaders and members-- those who carry its message-- without being excluded from campus life. This is the gist of the case. CLS was kicked off campus-- no email server for its announcements, no classroom chalkboards, no web space, no funding-- because they have the temerity to actually believe orthodox Christian doctrine.
  • "This is a case about the separation of church and state." It is not. Since at least 1981, the law has been clear that public universities don't violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause when they recognize religious student groups, and in 1995, the court held that public universities can give money to religious student groups. In the 80's and 90's, hostile schools tried to de-fund groups through establishment clause litigation. Since that tactic didn't work, they now try to exclude them from campus by crying "discrimination."
When public schools are permitted to interfere if the Democratic Law Students' Association rejects republican members, or the Marxist Student group won't allow capitalists on the leadership ballot, something is wrong with world.

No student was ever excluded from a CLS meeting or banned from membership at Hastings, and to my knowledge, no gay student has ever been excluded from CLS. The case arose because the university didn't like the religious standards and requirements of the Christian Legal Society and refused them access to campus life.

The briefs from all parties and friends of the court are available online.

Be in prayer for the advocates and justices in this case.


  1. Excellent overview. Thanks for the heads up on this case!

  2. Yeah, Mike! Thank you for the breakdown, so we can know the arguments being propogated and pray for this craziness.