Ninth Circuit shoots down CLS appeal in Hastings case

by on March 20, 2009  •  In Religion

In a one-paragraph, unpublished order issued just a week after oral arguments, the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the UC Hastings College of Law cannot be required to recognize and fund a religious student group that discriminates in the selection of members and officers. Christian Legal Society v Kane, 2009 WL 693391. At issue was Hastings' open membership rule prohibiting discrimination based on religion or sexual orientation of members.

The order states in its entirety:

The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups-all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable. Truth v. Kent Sch. Dist., 542 F.3d 634, 649-50 (9th Cir.2008). 


The Alliance Defense Fund has filed a cert petition in the Truth case. (See summary of oral argument and link to cert petition.) CLS, which has chapters in 165 (out of roughly 200) law schools, is also expected to seek Supreme Court review.

From National Law Journal:

Hastings' attorney, Ethan Schulman of Folger Levin & Kahn in San Francisco, said the issue has arisen repeatedly in test cases at various university campuses across the country. The most recent was Feb. 6 in San Diego. In that case, U.S. District Judge Larry Burns granted summary judgment for San Diego State University against a challenge by Christian student groups.

The CLS case is one of a half-dozen test cases the group has filed in recent years against law schools around the country over similar nondiscrimination pledge requirements. The 9th Circuit decision to side with Hastings may put it in direct conflict with the 7th Circuit.

CLS attorney Timothy J. Tracey, of the Springfield, Va.-based Center for Law and Religious Freedom, argued that the school's denial of official recognition deprives it of some funding, access to recruit students at official events and access to the school Web site and other publications. The school does provide meeting space.


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