On Monday, April 19, 2010, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will have a major impact on campus ministry. The case involves the Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. CLS is a ministry partner with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on many law school campuses across the country.
The Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Christian Legal Society v. Martinez will clarify conflicting decisions between two federal circuit courts about whether the U.S. Constitution “allows a state law school to deny recognition to a religious student organization because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious viewpoints.” The American Bar Association website indicates that nearly 100 parties have filed briefs in support of the CLS position, including 14 state attorneys general. InterVarsity joined a brief with 15 other individuals and organizations which have, as the brief states, “encountered resistance, at various public school campuses, to organizational recognition or equal benefits based upon their supposed violation, by insistence upon religious standards, of official non-discrimination policies.”
CLS is represented in this case by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). In recent weeks ADF attorneys have debated this case on several law school campuses across the country. “Christian student groups shouldn’t be forced to deny their faith in order to be treated the same as other student groups,” says ADF senior legal counsel Gregory S. Baylor, a participant at one of the debates. “Just as all student groups have the right to associate with people who share common beliefs and interests, Christian student groups have the right to be Christian student groups. A university policy never trumps rights protected by the U.S. Constitution.”
No Middle Ground
Last month USA Today featured an Opinion column by Portland OR writer Tom Krattenmaker, urging the justices to find a middle ground. Greg Baylor responded on the Academic Freedom File blog that there’s little middle ground to be found. Fred Potter, Executive Director of the Christian Legal Society, sees more than just campus ministry hanging in the balance. “The CLS v Martinez case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to impact materially the future trajectory of First Amendment religious and free speech liberties nationwide.”
The links on this page and on our previous story about the issue provide a large amount of background information to inform your prayers. InterVarsity president Alec Hill is asking InterVarsity staff, students, alumni, and friends to be in prayer for the justices, that their ruling in this case would not restrict the constitutional freedoms that allow us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ on U.S. public college campuses.
Coverage of Monday’s hearing: Associated Press || Washington Post || Washington Times
The Torch blog of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education || Christianity Today