Can We Discriminate?
This week, the Union for Reform Judaism signed onto an amicus brief for the upcoming Supreme Court case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. This case began when the University of California-Hastings School of Law denied formal recognition to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), a student-run group, because it discriminates in who can become voting members and attain leadership roles.
While CLS allows any and all students to participate in their activities, they restrict their voting members and leadership to those who adhere to conservative Christian values as they define them. In particular, they exclude those who engage in "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" including "sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman."
The University maintains a policy that only clubs that do not discriminate can get recognition from the school. With this recognition comes certain privileges, including the use of message boards and university space, as well as a small allotment of funding. The Supreme Court is considering whether the school's action constitutes a violation of the students' First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion.
The URJ signed onto an amicus brief coordinated by the American Jewish Committee in favor of the respondent (University of California-Hastings College of the Law). The brief argues that the 9th Circuit's holding that the University's decision to allow restrictive, discriminatory groups access to the University campus, but not to funding, did not violate the students' First Amendment rights and should be affirmed.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on April 19th, 2010 and issue a decision before the end of the term in June