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Jared is a college student who grounds his identity in his faith. From a young age, Jared found that his Christian beliefs helped him make sense of the world, and most of his friends feel the same way. For his undergraduate studies, Jared went to a Christian school, but decided to pursue law at Hastings, part of the University of California system.
Immediately, Jared found a home with the Christian Legal Society. All the members of the group held his same beliefs, and used those beliefs to inform their understanding of law throughout their studies. However, one of Jared’s friends, Molly, was a part of the LGBTQ club, Hastings Outlaw, and found out that students who were part of the LGBTQ community were not welcome to vote or hold leadership positions in the CLS.
Molly was outraged, saying that this policy was unfair discrimination that went against Hasting’s policy that “student organizations allow students to participate regardless of the student’s status or beliefs.” Besides, Hastings was a public university, and since student clubs received funding from the university, allowing the CLS to exclude members of the LGBTQ community would be like the state imposing the religious standards of one group on another. It would be state-sanctioned discrimination.
Jared tried to explain to Molly that he personally did not have a problem with the Hastings Outlaw or anyone in it, but the faith he has fiercely believed in all his life has explicitly laid out in the Bible that “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” is sinful, and that includes "sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman" as well as homosexual relationships. For the CLS to ignore this important aspect of their belief system, Jared said, would not honor what the CLS was trying to represent. Forcing the CLS to accept leadership from those who believed differently would be infringing upon the members’ freedom of religion.
Molly said that she understood where he was coming from, but it shouldn’t matter because students should be allowed to explore different beliefs in college and feel safe from discrimination in doing so. Hastings College of Law agreed, and refused funding of the CLS unless they changed their membership policy.
Do you think that Molly and Hastings Outlaw are right? Should anyone be able to apply for any leadership position in a club, regardless of whether or not their personal philosophy aligns with it? Or, do you think Jared is right? Can he and the CLS be justified in excluding students who don’t share the CLS’s beliefs from leadership roles so that they can maintain the integrity of the group and fully exercise their freedom of speech, association, and religion?
This case study is based on the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
Photo by cbcastro
available under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.