OK, it’s actually called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
The Christian Legal Society sought recognition as a “Registered Student Organization” from Hastings School of Law in San Francisco. This is a designation that the school provides to organized student, faculty, or staff groups that allows them to place announcements in the school newsletter, send fliers through the school’s mail system, send broadcast messages to all users of the school’s e-mail system, and participate in the school’s annual “Student Organization Fair,” from which new first-year students may be recruited. Each organization is required to inform members that they are not sponsored by the college and that their views are their own; in addition, Hastings explictly disavows sponsorship of any of the groups. In 2004, Hastings recognized over sixty such groups; the Christian Legal Society is the only group in the history of the school to be denied recognition.
Why were they denied, especially given the fact that Hastings approved such polar opposites as “Silenced Right,” a pro-life group, and Law Students for Choice? Because the group’s bylaws, requiring each voting member to affirm certain religiously-based statements as truth, ran afoul of Hasting’s non-discrimination policies. Hasting’s policy requires that all groups be open to all interested students, regardless of what personal beliefs the student has.
The specific sticking point seems to be gay and lesbian students, who under CLS policy would not be permitted to become members or serve as officers.
CLS sued, and ultimately the Ninth Circuit held that the denial of recognition here was viewpoint neutral and reasonable.
This was an especially interesting in light of the fact that the Seventh Circuit had previously considered an almost identical dilemna, and had found the opposite: in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, the Seventh held that a school could NOT deny recognition to a chapter of the very same organization based on nearly identical reasoning.
So with a clear circuit division, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Supremes took this one on.
Should the rule be that the tolerant must tolerate all, even intolerance?
Here is the brief from Hastings in opposition to the Court’s granting cert (saying, in effect, we like the Ninth Circuit’s decision just fine). And here is the brief in favor of granting cert and overturning the Ninth.
The Ninth Circuit’s opinon was two sentences, a memorandum disposition affirming the district court, which in turn relied strongly on a case with what they thought were similar issues, Truth v. Kent School District.