Monday, September 12, 2011

Rights and Religion Clash in Court


In San Francisco, the Hastings College of Law, which is part of University of California, allows over sixty recognized groups to use meeting space, bulletin boards and whatever else they please to do, as long as they follow one rule: religious discrimination is not permitted. Unfortunately, the Christian Legal Society group thought that they were exempt from this rule. The Christian Legal Society decided that nonbelievers and homosexuals are allowed to be a part of their club, however, they cannot become voting members or assume leadership positions. In addition, the Christian Legal Society’s discrimination was not only geared towards homosexuals, it was also aimed towards heterosexual men and woman who participated in sexual activity before marriage. After not being pleased with the outcome of the California court’s decision to rule against the group, the Supreme Court decided to pick up the group’s case and rule out whether or not this religious group’s standards for members is constitutional.

Hastings College shortly withdrew their recognition from the Christian group. In addition, the law school made it clear to the public that their school promotes an open membership to all student groups and all groups must accept all group members as voting members, no matter their belief. Since Hastings is a public institution it is a moral obligation to promote anti-discrimination. According to the first amendment, all institutions should require a religious freedom atmosphere, whether the school is private or public. Public schools are often known to be more diverse and more accepting to different beliefs or cultures, however, if this court case took place at a private law school the same issue would still be raised. There is no private versus public school vendetta when it comes down to religious discrimination, it would still be frowned upon by the majority at any school.

In this new era most court cases involving religious freedom are usually associated with homosexuality, which applies to a lot of people, especially in San Francisco, the unofficial gay capital of The United States. This is why I found this case to be even more interesting, it occurs in a city where almost everyone accepts homosexuality as a part of their life; if they are not gay, they probably know one or more people that are. The people in the Christianity group should realize that given the location of where they are attending school, more people are likely to be homosexual and should be accepting rather than expelling.

In addition to the Homosexuals who experienced discrimination, all people who have participated in sexual activity prior to marriage aren’t allowed to vote in the Christian group either. I have seen many discrepancies regarding sexual orientation discrimination but this is the first time I have seen discrimination involving sex prior to marriage. This is a surprise to me because college is usually known for its, lack of better terms, sex, drugs, and alcohol. Although people are supposed to go to school for education, one night stands and hookups is what college is usually associated with, especially based on movies and television shows. Law school comes after four years of college, and my guess is that unless students are very religious, most people did not wait for marriage to engage in sexual activity. Furthermore, I would assume by the time most people attend law school they would not be able to vote in the Christian group at Hastings according to their standards.

10 comments:

Harry R. said...

I understand Liz's concern over the requirements of the Christian Legal Society, but I feel that the specific rules should be considered separately. The rule restricting the rights of gay members is very straightforward in its discrimination. Such restrictions, while they may be religiously motivated, have been ruled by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional. However, I feel that there are significant differences between homosexuality and pre-marital sexual activity. While the group's view on homosexuality is one issue, their religiously held opposition to pre-marital sexual activities may have more legal grounding than their views on homosexuality.

Elena T said...

We've talked about this issue in class with a previous college Christian group who expelled a member for being gay, but this group is interesting for allowing homosexuals to be members. However, I do not understand how you can welcome homosexuals and nonbelievers, yet tell them they can't take part in voting and leadership positions, that to me makes no sense, they might as well have refused to let them join. I understand not allowing them to join would be extreme, but either way they put it this is still discrimination. Restricting their roles in the club is just as bad as not allowing them to join. Like Liz said, this is also my first time seeing a case that also discriminates against members who partake in sexual pre-marrital activities. I feel that these two issues are very different and don't seem to fit well together, but I disagree with this Christian groups views of how they treat their members in respect to their own private "activities." I am certain that the issue with homosexuality is unconstitutional, and although I don't agree with their exclusion of people who are sexually active prior to marriage, I am not sure that could be ruled as unconstitutional.

Jean A said...

By allowing student organizations to exist that are religiously based, I do not think Hasting's should be able to say that they promote an open membership policy to all student groups and that all members must be voting members, no matter their belief. How can a Christian Legal Society exist if they are required to allow members to join that go against their beliefs? It is one thing to want to promote inclusion of all, but it is another thing to allow students to join religious groups who violate their core majority beliefs within the group. While I do think exclusion of those who have engaged in pre-marital sex is extreme, I feel the major problem lies in the hands of the school by allowing such a group to exist.

Zermeno A. said...

I personally find this case to be quite common, that is, atleast as pertaining to similar cases that we have previously seen. Being that I am from California, I like Liz, found it a little extreme that Hastings would bring about such a case. Public schools within West Coasts tend to be a bit more liberal and open minded, especially regarding gay rights. San Francisco is like an unofficial gay capitol and thus, the club should really think about who they are targeting and where they are targeting them as well. When it comes down to the idea of premarital sex, who exactly judges whether or not one is abstinent? What are the boundaries that this group is crossing? And, who exactly is letting them cross them. The group thinks they have found a new way to keep "sinners" away but the way they are approaching it is definitely unconstitutional.

Chris R. said...

I have researched the Christian Legal Society and their membership requirements on their official website (www.clsnet.org). Its bylaws state that all members must "as a condition of their... membership in CLS, acknowledge in writing their acceptance of, and agreement with the [CLS] Statement of Faith...and must confirm that they subscribe to and support, without reservation, the CLS Community Life Statement and its principles." Membership in the CLS is voluntary. The requirements are understood upfront and are available for all to see. A university, no matter what its geographical location, that supports an on-campus group should not do so if it does not support its bylaws. The CLS would mean nothing if it sacraficed its values.

Jack Ness said...

I agree with Jean that if the school allows religious groups, it is unfair for them to ask the religious group to accept all members. Many performance groups in college hold auditions and dont allow people in based on talent. What is the difference in disallowing a person in a group based on their beliefs? Both are discrimination technically. One form of discrimination is just far more sensitive than the other, which I feel is an unfortunate part of society. People get offended far too easily these days.

Marissa V said...

I too understand Liz's concern over this matter. Even though the Christian Legal Society has certain beliefs I feel that it is unconstitutional not to let them joined based on their sexual orientation. I have never heard of a LBGT club ever not letting members join that are straight. It is completely unfair and discriminatory. Clubs that are funded through a university should not be allowed to discriminate based on sexual orientation for potential new members.

kanderson said...

I really appreciate the idea that all have the ability to be included. I do not know where I stand on this issue, because I think that groups should be allowed to have rules and members that "follow" those rules. But Hastings is a public school and does need to set the standard for anti-discrimination. I definitely agree with Jean that Hastings is setting themselves up for a problem when they allow a group to exist, when technically it is against their rules in the first place.

Grace R said...

This Christian Legal Society definitely seems to be in the wrong in this situation. While I understand that their religion does not believe in homosexuality, by them allowing homosexuals and people that have pre-marital sex to join the group, they are allowing them to be members of the group. Once a member of the group, a person, no matter their beliefs should have all of the same rights as anyone else. If this group felt so strongly about homosexuality and pre-marital sex, than perhaps they should have not allowed those people to become members in order to stay consistent, instead of having conflicting actions that weaken their argument.

Mike HJ said...

I do not see why the Christian Legal Society felt that they were exempt from this school wide rule. As Elena mentioned in her comment, if they do not allow homosexuals and those engaging in pre-martial sex to become full voting members, they just as well should not have let them join at the outset. Not allowing them full membership because of their beliefs is, in itself, a form of religious discrimination, and I support the move by Hastings to revoke the Christian Legal Society's recognition from the university