On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in a case involving a student-run Christian group at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law.
The organization, a branch of the Christian Legal Society (CLS), wanted to receive financial support and official recognition from the university even though it excludes gays, atheists and others from membership. The university refused, citing its strict non-discrimination policy.
Backed by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), the CLS chapter sued.
I was at the Supreme Court when the case was argued, and I remember feeling a little uneasy as I walked out of the building. The high court’s ultra-conservative bloc seemed to leaning toward buying the ADF’s argument.
Americans United was concerned. If the court mandated that a public institution must fund a discriminatory religious group, it could open the door to all sorts of church-state problems. Imagine how such a scheme might have affected the “faith-based” initiative. Religious groups might suddenly have a legal right to receive tax funds even if they would never consider hiring members of certain faiths.
But as it turned out, CLS and the ADF lost the case. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion in a 5-4 ruling.
ADF lawyers, however, just couldn’t let the matter go. They insisted that university officials had been guilty of selective enforcement – in other words, that the school had imposed the “no-discrimination” policy on the CLS chapter while letting other groups get away with it.
On Wednesday, a federal appeals court tossed out that claim as well. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it was too late for CLS to raise that claim since the group hadn’t brought it up before.
We can only hope this ruling will bring an end to this case. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the ADF makes another go at the Supreme Court. That group is multi-million-dollar Religious Right operation founded by TV preachers, and it is determined to chip away at the church-state wall as the first step toward implementing its theocratic agenda.
In recent years, ADF lawyers’ primary strategy has been to cry “discrimination” whenever things don’t go the way they would like. If a government entity refuses to support a biased organization, that’s discrimination to the ADF. When public schools refuse to allow students to use official channels to impose religion on their peers, that’s also discrimination to the ADF.
Yet in the Hastings case, there was only one entity guilty of discrimination: The CLS chapter. The organization has a right to do that – with its own funds. The group has no right to demand that any arm of the government give aid and comfort to exclusionary policies.
It’s good news that the appeals court didn’t buy the ADF’s argument this time. The ADF has lost this case, and it’s time for the organization to accept that and go home.