In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court found against the chapter of the Christian Legal Society at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.
The case stemmed from a conflict between a university policies banning discrimination of all kinds, including sexual orientation, from any campus groups. The conflict arose when CLS’ statement of faith which members are required to sign which condemns pre-martial sex, adultery and homosexual activity.
Writing on behalf of the majority, retiring Justice John Paul Stevens said that the policies were discriminatory, stating that allowing a campus group to avoid university restrictions could open the door for legal discrimination on the basis of race.
On the part of the minority, Samuel Alito – well-known as a devout Catholic – said the decision was tantamount to pandering.
“Our proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate,'” Alito said, quoting a previous court decision. “Today's decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning.”
Christian humanitarian organization World Vision weighed in as well on how the decision might impact hiring practices of religious organizations, which often seek employees who share identical faith beliefs.
“For the setting of a public university, the court ruled that the government's interest in promoting access to campus activities by all students outweighed the right of a religious student group to express its religious beliefs through its selection of leaders,” World Vision said.
“As a result, this decision does not have any direct impact on the rights of private, faith-based organizations to hire people of the same religion or to receive federal funds to deliver their social services.
World Vision will continue to vigorously defend its constitutional and statutory freedom to remain faith-based through its staffing decisions, as do other religious organizations, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish or Christian.”
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