Excerpts: ACS Panel on CLS v. Martinez

April 19, 2010

ACS recently hosted a press briefing on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today. In CLS v. Martinez, the Court confronts the question of whether the Constitution allows a state law school to deny recognition to a religious student organization because the group believes that complying with the school's anti-discrimination policy will compromise its core religious viewpoints. In this case, in order for students to be eligible to be voting members or officers of the Christian Legal Society, the students must affirm their commitment to the group's core beliefs and pledge to live their lives accordingly. Adhering to these core beliefs would exclude a variety of students from these roles, including non-Christian and gay, lesbian, and bisexual students, which conflicts with the school's open-membership policy for recognized student groups.

This case raises issues at the intersection of anti-discrimination and religious freedom principles that have tested courts, and led to conflicting decisions. Does the school have a legitimate interest in limiting the provision of public funds and benefits to student groups that agree to abide by the school's viewpoint-neutral, non-discrimination policy to ensure that all students have equal access to all school-sanctioned groups? Or does the school's policy violate a student group's rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion? Excerpts from each of the four experts' analyses are embedded below.