Supreme Court to hear Hastings discrimination case

December 7, 2009 10:35:06 PM PST
The Supreme Court of the United States Monday announced it will review a local case with far reaching implications. The justices will decide if the University of California's Hastings College of the Law violated the rights of a student group on campus.

The group in question is an organization of law students who are conservative Christians. They sued back in 2004 after the law school refused to give them $250 to attend a national conference because the school says the group discriminates.

The Hastings College of the Law website lists dozens of student groups, from ballroom dancing to the Black Law Students Association. But the Christian Legal Society is not listed.

Hastings is denying that organization official recognition and financial assistance because the society excludes gays and lesbians from membership, a violation of the law school's policy.

"The law school's perspective is student organizations that are funded with public money and that enjoy access to public facilities have to abide by the same open membership policies and same non-discrimination polices as all other groups on campus," Hastings' attorney Ethan Schulman said.

The Christian Legal Society's motto is, "Seeking justice with the love of God." The group's lawyer says it has 70 chapters at universities across the nation.

"We don't believe we're discriminating at all, but we think we're doing what most religious groups and organizations do, which is require their leaders share their viewpoints around which the group is organized; in this group there are religious viewpoints that the government should not be interfering with," Christian Legal Society attorney Kim Colby said.

The argument is now before the Supreme Court will now decide, after the federal courts rejected the group's argument that their freedoms of speech, religion, and association were being violated.

Would-be lawyers on campus are divided.

"I would support the school in not providing funding for them just as if there was a group that promoted not having people of color on the staff," student Madisyn Coniglio said.

"Everybody should be entitled to their opinion and if someone disagrees they don't have to join that group," student Luke Eaton said.

"I do think it's important for the school to ensure that organizations are being inclusive," student Steven Tang said

The Christian Legal Society has sued other schools and universities. It won a case against Southern Illinois University, which was settled in 2007. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments this spring, perhaps as early as March.


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