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Members Only

Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
A building in Hastings, providing student housing and offices.
The best college student comment on "Members Only" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, November 18th. Finalists are selected by likes, so get your friends to like your comment. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by email in the right hand column) for updates.
 
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.

Comments Comments

Shannon said on Nov 9, 2012
Although I understand Jared?s point of view, I do side with Molly and Hastings Outlaw. Jared believes that leadership from an individual whose personal beliefs clash with CLS?s is infringing on other members? freedom of religion. However, granting a person the opportunity to hold a leadership position does not, by any means, take away from CLS members? right to practice the faith of their choosing (which is freedom of religion?s most fundamental aspect). This case merely asks that the CLS acknowledge the rights of its fellow students -as students- to participate in the leadership of the club. It does not alter CLS?s position on the issue, and in my opinion the average college student isn?t going to define a club ?even a religious club? based on the sexual orientation of its leaders. Additionally, assuming CLS holds elections for leadership positions as vast majority of other college groups do, there would be no ?forcing? of leadership as Jared states there would be because CLS members would have a fair say in the matter. I understand that this may not sit well with some members of CLS. However, as part of a public university, I don?t feel CLS has the final say in who they may include or exclude from the group: the university does, and according to the policy laid out by Molly, she and Hastings Outlaw are in the right. I think that Jared is too invested in his personal stance to acknowledge the logic of Molly?s case or the opinions of others. Although Jared is very steadfast in his position, I think he is forgetting that there may be students in CLS who are more accepting of the LGBTQ community. I do believe it?s possible for Christians to be accepting of the humanity of a LGBTQ individual without having to agree with all of their beliefs. For these reasons, I say Molly and Hastings Outlaw are right. - Like - 14 people like this.
Liseth Rodriguez said on Nov 12, 2012
We agree with the Supreme Court?s ruling in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The Christian Legal Society is not allowed to discriminate against potential membership in any way shape or form. The University of California Hastings has a clearly laid out policy protecting students by insuring that no UC Hasiting?s student is rejected club membership. Since all students are paying into a student fee that fund all the clubs there is no reason that they should be barred from joining any club of their choice. In addition, it is a public funded institution and thus must abide by the federal laws against discrimination. We can understand the argument of the CLS and the feeling that their first amendment rights are infringed. While they may not be allowed to reject members based on their beliefs, they should be confident in the club?s ability to attract a majority that are in agreement with their fundamental values. In addition one can see that a rule against certain members running for a leadership role is unnecessary. If it is really the want of the members to disallow someone from holding a leadership role in the club their membership should vote for a different member; someone they deem more of a leader that does indeed share the most important values. If the club does, for any reason, vote the prior into a leadership position, those that are against this decision should consider that the voice of the club?s members want something else. We do feel that this is a situational ruling. If this was a case at a private institution, instead of a public one, we feel that the CLS would most likely win at many strongly religious institutions may side with the CLS. An organization that is founded on a certain ethic that has private funds could have a stronger argument than does the CLS of a public institution. Overall we understand the legal aspect of the Supreme Courts decision. The argument that the Christian Legal Society was trying to use was based more in a moral consciousness. -Liseth, Neil, Parker, Andrew - Like
Casandra, Tori, Edward & Robertson said on Nov 13, 2012
We feel that the court was correct in ruling in the favor of Molly and the Hastings Outlaw. The choice to attend a public school forfeits the privilege of excluding people based on their status or belief. The public university is exactly that: public. It is open and operates on free expression that allows for all statuses and beliefs to coexist in a free-thinking society. Under the public umbrella, no one can say what can and cannot be believed or force beliefs on to others. What the CLS asserted, however, was the unconstitutionality of UC Hastings Law to deny them recognition as an RSO based on their failure to accept all-comers from the university. It is upon these grounds that we concur with the Supreme Court?s decision to deny this appeal. Hastings policies are based on ones that apply to everyone in our democratic and pluralistic society. The school doesn?t force any belief system on to anyone nor infringe on the rights for free exercise of religion. UC Hastings operates on openness and nondiscrimination of beliefs and statuses as it is reflected in their bylaws, including the bylaws of student organizations. These bylaws enforce nondiscrimination as applicable by law. If a student organization wishes to be a Registered Student Organization (RSO) with the university, receive aid, use of facilities for meetings, usage of school name and logo, and communication services then the bylaws must be adhered to. Due to CLS National bylaws not observing the UC Hastings RSO bylaws, CLS lost their status of being a RSO as well as their funding. Though entitled to their beliefs, the members of the CLS are not entitled to the public funding that benefits all groups recognized by the university. Not only must all students at UC Hastings pay a student activities fee for attending, but all taxpayers in the state of California help support the University and the funding they provide for student organizations. The school was generous to allow them to publicize and congregate on campus, but by no means are they obligated by the constitution to fund any group out of line with their inclusionary policies as per their bylaws. Hastings did not censor or attempt to disband CLS but rather, it preserved the first amendment rights of all students by refusing to financially support an exclusive group with public funds. As for leadership positions within a group, the group of people should be able to decided whom they will vote for to lead them. If they do not feel that a candidate is qualified for the position, because that persons platform does not reflect the group?s ideology, then it is most likely that person shall not become a leader of that group. Access to general membership to a RSO with the potential of becoming a leader should not be inhibited due to any infringement of the RSO bylaws as stated by UC Hastings. Any student organizations wishing to be except from UC Hastings bylaw should find alternative funding and not be accepted as an RSO. They still may be an active chapter on campus if they abide by laws within reason and have peaceful meetings. - Like
Eddie, Joe, Cat, Anton, Ryan said on Nov 13, 2012
We agree with the decisions made by UC Hastings and the Supreme Court. The central problem isn?t the beliefs or policies of the Christian Legal Society, but rather the fact that the CLS willingly accepted public funding from Hastings. CLS can discriminate on religious grounds if it so desires; however, it cannot do so and receive public funding; the result, effectively, would be publicly funded discrimination. Furthermore, Hastings circumscribes the freedom of all the groups with RSO status; by accepting the university?s money and use of its facilities, the groups agree to abide by the conditions set by Hastings, including its ?Policy on Nondiscrimination.? Clearly, the by-laws guiding chapters of the CLS are in conflict with this policy, given that sexual orientation is listed as an unlawful basis for discrimination. Had Hastings granted the CLS with RSO status, the CLS would have been in violation of its nondiscrimination policy. Thus, we believe the university was well within its rights to reject the application from the CLS. As the majority opinion states, the CLS was not seeking equal treatment under the university?s policies (a request Hastings would be obligated to respect); rather, the group sought preferential treatment via an exemption to the nondiscrimination policy. It is important to note that even though Hastings denied RSO status to the CLS, the university offered the group ?use of Hastings facilities for its meetings and activities.? Thus, Hastings did not seek to undermine or silence the CLS; to do so would be discriminatory in and of itself. Rather, Hastings simply denied RSO-level support to a group whose by-laws were in conflict with established university policy. The dissenting opinion also draws on the nondiscrimination policy, claiming that Hastings would not force a Jewish student group to admit anti-Semites, or a Muslim group to ?admit persons who are viewed as slandering Islam.? This comparison, however, is problematic. Anti-Semitism and Judaism (as well as Islam and the slander thereof) are inherently opposed to one another; the beliefs are mutually exclusive. There could be no possible productive reason for an anti-Semite to join a Jewish student group. The LGBTQ community and Christianity, however, are not mutually exclusive. Homosexuals at Hastings may not agree with every position that the CLS maintains, but the likelihood is that they also share much in common, given that they have a passion for the law and may be Christians themselves. There is also a religious aspect to this argument as well. Unrestricted religious freedom can lead to coercion or the placement of unfair burdens upon others. According to the Declaration of Religious Freedom, to do so ?would be considered an abuse of one?s right and a violation of the right of others.? Thus, while the decision made by Hastings may infringe upon the religious freedom of the CLS, doing so may be justifiable if the CLS infringes upon the religious freedom of others (especially, in this case, the LGBTQ community) in exercising its own religious freedom. Finally, our group was particularly troubled by the exclusive nature of the CLS. The teachings of Jesus are quite counter to the discrimination of the CLS. Jesus was radical in his acceptance of sinners, such as tax collectors and prostitutes, and some of his most impassioned words are found in his anger towards the holier-than-thou Pharisees. He calls us to not judge, to never ?throw the first stone,? to remove the logs from our own eyes first. In our estimation, by asking for an exemption to the Hastings nondiscrimination policy, the CLS entirely missed the point of being a Christian legal society. - Like - 4 people like this.
Davin, Jon, Taylor said on Nov 13, 2012
The issue of the extent to which LGBTQ should be allowed to participate in the CLS at UC Hastings should be viewed from a both a legal and a moral perspective. After taking the moral and legal perspectives into account, Molly and Hastings Outlaw provide the most compelling argument that non-discriminatory membership should be enforced at a public university. In response to the moral issue of the infringement of freedom of religion, the actual freedom to practice and discuss Christian doctrine remains unimpeded; the university is not forcing the CLS to change their view with regards to homosexuality. Additionally, by attempting to deny full participation to Christians who practice their faith differently, the CLS is infringing upon the natural rights of these members. By limiting their participation, the CLS is in fact limiting the full autonomy of the LGBTQ members attempting to participate. This is in direct contradiction to statements put forth by Archbishop Charles Chaput in the ?Fortnight for Freedom Homily?, which holds that a Christian is more fully capable of participating in the will of God if her or she does so of their own volition and with full autonomy. In addition, the CLS? assertion that it legally has the right to regulate membership based on sexual orientation fails to hold water. According to Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg, the CLS ?seeks special dispensation from an across-the-board open-access requirement designed to further the reasonable educational purposes underpinning the school?s student-organization program.? The CLS is enforcing foundational values that work against discrimination of the student body which is in clear violation of the institution's policy the CLS is a part of. The threat is not to change the ideas and identity of the club but rather to abide by policy already set forth by the university to protect the student majority. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Christian, Courtney, Kori, Riva, Sergio said on Nov 13, 2012
Our group feels that Jared is in the wrong. For reasons including the following: 1. The Vatican Council declared that all people have the absolute right practice whatever religion they want. ?This freedom means that?no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits?. In Jared?s case, restricting members of a particular sexual preference to enter a public club infringes on their natural right to choose their own beliefs. In the case CLS V. Martinez, the CLS requires its members to confess a creed of Christian principles in order to join. This excludes members of other religious preferences from entering the club as well as members of different sexual preferences. This profession of faith requirement infringes on a persons right to choose his own set of beliefs and is in direct violation of the declaration of religious freedom. 2. In the Supreme Court documents, it was written that members of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) in UC Hastings justified their decision to exclude LGBTs from joining their organization because of the Christian belief that sexual activity should not occur outside of marriage between a man and a woman. I think the application to their beliefs is problematic because it is an interpretation rather than a fact. Interpretations and extrapolations of Christian doctrine are subjective and may not be truths. We should note than that in The Declaration of Religious Freedom, the Catholic Church advocates the search for truth. The Church is aware that our knowledge is imperfect and we are only striving towards perfection. I think the Christian Legal Society (CLS) in UC Hastings has more to gain by striving for the truth by discussing different lifestyles rather than shunning them. 3. There are important points to mention within the Supreme Court ruling that I think the prompt fails to recognize. The Christian Legal Society chose to discriminate against homosexual students, and in doing so, failed to comply with the Nondiscrimination Policy to which all Registered Student Organizations are held, a policy Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg points out does not specifically target any group and does not inquire into the beliefs behind exclusion, limiting its prejudicial potential. UC Hastings also informed the Christian Legal Society that it ?would be pleased to provide [CLS] the use of Hastings facilities for its meetings and activities?. The university thus provides the CLS with an opportunity to continue functioning outside of official recognition, as many other organizations do across the county. As a member of CLS, Jared is thus not ?forced? or compelled to give up his beliefs. 4. The University?s clear pronunciation of the guidelines necessary for obtaining an RSO title were given to the CLS group, and they went against these guidelines. They also went outside of the guidelines in their Christian faith. As a Christian, I thought it was said that judgment should not be placed on anyone when looking at their ?identity?. I do comprehend the fact that heterosexuality is praised and homosexuality is looked at as a sin. Yet, it is not the group?s decision to judge these individuals by the characteristics, but God?s. This belief is a fundamental one, and is at the basis of all Christian teaching ? i.e. love your neighbor, love your enemies, share what you love (including the CLS club)? - Like - 1 person likes this.
Big Q said on Nov 28, 2012
Congratulations to Eddie, Joe, Cat, Anton, Ryan, winners of this Big Q Contest! Thank you to all who submitted thoughtful responses, and please check back in January when we resume our bi-weekly contests! - Like
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Tags: Christian Legal Society, CLS, Hastings, LGBTQ