WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says it will decide whether a California law school may force a Christian group to admit gays, lesbians and nonbelievers to gain stature as an official campus organization.
The high court agreed today to hear an appeal from a chapter of the Christian Legal Society at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. A federal judge had turned aside the group's attempt to force the school to give it campus funding and other benefits without opening its membership to gays, lesbians and nonbelievers — a requirement of the San Francisco school.
The 30-member Christian group was told in 2004 that it was being denied recognition, including university funding and benefits, because of its policy of exclusion.
Federal courts have rejected the group's assertions that the law school's policy violated its freedoms of speech, religion and association.
"The court below got it wrong and we're trusting that the Supreme Court will correct this," said Kim Colby, senior counsel with the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom.
According to a Christian Legal Society news release, the group invites all students to its meetings.
"However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith," the statement said. "CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman."
Colby said that simply means that the group simply "requires that their leaders share their religious beliefs."
The Christian Legal Society has more than 100 chapters at universities nationwide. The group has sued other universities on the same grounds.
It won at Southern Illinois University, where the university settled with the group in 2007 and recognized its membership and leadership policies.
The California case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371.