June 28th, 2010
01:19 PM ET

Will Supreme Court decision ignite another religious debate?

A Supreme Court ruling today against a Christian campus group that barred students who don’t share its views on marriage may have settled a legal question, but the debate may rage on.

The court took the case after the Christian Legal Society sued a California law school that denied it official recognition because the society limited its core membership to those who share its beliefs on faith and marriage.

The Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco argued that the Christian Legal Society’s policy would keep gays and lesbians from joining, which, under law, it could not sanction.

Lawyers for the Christian Legal Society argued that group members should have the discretion to hold their own views.

The court 5-4 ruling was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote that the law school “may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.”

In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that today’s decision “is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.”

What do you think? Was the court's decision a serious blow against religious expression?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Courts • Culture wars • Education • Homosexuality • Uncategorized

soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. John A. Estes, II (L)

    Just another PUSH to seperate Faith-Based, issue's from the public/govt. Knowing that the founding Father's "real" reason for seperation of Church & State, was the belief that Faith was & is Subversive to Govt.! In oppisation to each other. Church of England (for King from pope in rome, too). But know the EpiscopalChurch.org is a sudo-state church of the U.S., National Catheral, W., DC! And, again in my WashingtonTimes.com newspaper article of Flag, manufactor's. All for list ontl 4, flag's: Christian, Episcopal church, Star-of-David & Palal. No other...see?

    June 30, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  2. David in Houston

    The thing that people keep forgetting is that the members of the Christian Legal Society "chose" to be religious. They weren't born that way. The public does not have to subsidize their personal choice to discriminate against gay people. - Once they leave the inside of their church, they have to abide by other organization's rules.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  3. Mike

    A good decision was render in this case. A reasonable conclusion.

    June 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  4. Harv

    I love it when Christians claim to be victims. (Bill O'Donoghue of the Catholic League is always playing the victim of some perceived action.) There is a big difference, however, in being victimized and just not getting your way!

    June 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
  5. Father Robert Lyons

    I think that the real question that should be asked is why any of these voluntary student programs get funding from the schools, the government, etc. Think about it for a moment: why would anyone want to pay money for purely non-essential programs that they do not agree with? Why would a LBGT person want to have their tax money or tuition spent on a fundamentalist Christian group? Why would the same group of Christians want to see money spent on things they disagree with.

    If you want to join a student group, do it with your own money. Perhaps higher education would cost less and be more effective if we stopped wasting money on non-essential junk like this... on every side of the socio-political spectrum.

    June 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
    • elgeevz


      June 30, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  6. Marcus

    This is a ridiculous ruling. The head of the Republican party must be a Republican. Is that discrimination? No. Why then is it discrimination for the Christian Legal Society to limit its core membership (officers) to those who share its beliefs on faith and marriage? I'll tell you why–because we have become a nation of Christian haters! This country is turning its back on God and if we're not careful, He's gonna turn his back on us! Wouldn't it be easier and more efficient for all of you to just all scram out loud, at the top of your lungs "WE HATE GOD!"?!?

    June 30, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Michael

      But Marcus, I don't hate God. I don't even hate fundamentalists who hate me just because I'm not one of them.
      I do draw the line, however, at letting them use my tax dollars to spread their twisted message of hatred and bigotry.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
    • Martin

      Marcus, shouldn't you on a ledge somewhere?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • bash

      How can we hate something we don't believe in? Even if we did believe in some deity, it is the actions of people not of whatever that deity might be that we lament (not hate).

      July 1, 2010 at 7:20 am |
  7. Ryan

    following Jesus' admonishment about casting stones he followed that by telling the Mary Magdalene to go and sin no more...some who like to excuse their hypocrisies by calling others hypocrites like to forget that.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  8. OMar

    Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

    June 30, 2010 at 10:41 am |
    • Ddubbya

      "abomination" means customary. nothing more, nothing less.

      June 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Shannon

      It's nice to see someone quoting from the scriptures as we want to see Gods view on this and not base our response on our own opinions. (Proverbs 3:5)
      As with any group it has the right to decide which members to accept and not accept especially when it is based on a religious view. They are not required to accept ALL persons who wish to be a member as this would defy the groups purpose in the first place.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • McCluck

      "As with any group it has the right to decide which members to accept and not accept especially when it is based on a religious view. They are not required to accept ALL persons who wish to be a member as this would defy the groups purpose in the first place."

      No it does not have the right. Not when using money from the school which has a scrict and specific discrimination policy. If they want to meet outside of school they can. But as long as they are using the money from the school (provided by ALL students) they must accept all students the same.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm |
    • Michael

      The people who wrote that also wrote that women are made from ribs and the sun goes around the earth, and that disobedient children MUST – not should- be stoned to death.
      The problem isn't religion; the problem is fundamentalists pigheadedly insisting that the original form of their religious beliefs was perfect and any change is pure evil. I wonder why they feel OK eating a cheeseburger when it is expressly forbidden in Leviticus.
      Had a cheeseburger recently, Omar?

      June 30, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
    • daniel

      Do you believe in all of the provisions on Leviticus?

      July 1, 2010 at 1:39 am |
    • susanne

      And Jesus brought grace....we hate the sin but love the sinner..and I agree as a born again christian with the Supreme court

      July 1, 2010 at 10:15 am |
    • Leah (TXanimal)

      Those were specific rules prohibiting Levitican priests from participating in certain pagan rituals, some of which included sleeping with other men. No scholar has been able to accurately identify the meaning of the idiomatic expression you've posted here, but it likely doesn't mean what you assume it does. And I doubt anyone here is a Levitican priest, so I struggle to find the connection between the Levitican Holiness Code and this thread.

      July 6, 2010 at 10:49 am |
  9. Ryan

    but I wouldn't join PETA and where a fur coat to an event (contradiction), but i'm sure there are member of PETA who do things in private that contradict their cause. Get it?

    June 30, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  10. Ryan

    Wrong is wrong, bottom line. He who's without sin casts the first stone (not calling casting judgment a sin but not recommending it...check yourself first and foremost)...

    June 30, 2010 at 9:28 am |
  11. PsiCop

    As usual, the complaints of religionists deflect from the truth. This case was not about what the members of the Christian Legal Society could or could not believe. They can believe anything they wish to, no matter how backward or reprehensible, and the law school can do nothing about it. So that literally could not have been an issue here. What was at issue, was whether the CLS qualified to receive money from the school. That's right, these Christians were grubbing for money, and thus motivated solely by greed, but held themselves out as crusaders for religious freedom. Their religious freedom was never in doubt, thus, their campaign was predicated on a lie.

    June 30, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Marcus

      Money?!? That's what you think this is about? My first reaction is to call you an idiot, but I won't.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  12. Chris

    I seem to remember similar cases bing held in the supreme court for white supremest groups.

    When will we as a nation get over our intolerance and bigotry of others.

    When will we as a nation love our neighbor as ourself and stop all of this hatred.

    The vote speaks for itself 4 out of 9 members of our highest court think it is ok to be a bigot in the name of religious freedom.

    June 29, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  13. Thorrsman

    Now, I don't share their beliefs, but it seems odd that they are RERQUIRED by government to accept members who disagree with the basic tenets of the group.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • Bloke

      They aren't REQUIRED, as you state Thorrsman, to accept anyone at all. They are only required to do so if they choose to accept funding from the university. There is a big difference.

      June 29, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • PsiCop

      Their beliefs, and their "acceptance" of anyone, was NOT, in fact, at issue here. And it never was. What was at issue, was MONEY. That is, whether the group could get money from the law school. The CLS was motivated only by greed. Greed, yes, that vice that Christians have condemned since time immemorial ... that's what they were all about.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:12 am |
    • Steve Orris

      So if I understand correctly, someone with bad motives could potentially attempt to join any group on campus, stating that he does not agree with the group and their stated purpose. Then if they rejected him as a member the school would defund the group. I'm not trying to give anyone ideas here, but it seems like that's is what could happen.

      September 12, 2010 at 3:18 am |
  14. Noncommonsensical

    So does this mean that I can claim discrimination when, say, the jazz band refuses to accept me on the basis that I don't play an instrument and don't want to play an instrument? Because that's exactly what this ruling means, and it's nothing short of asinine.

    June 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm |
    • Chris

      You are forgetting that there are many christain and other religious gays lesbians and trans out there that want to be a part of a chrsitan group and should have that right.

      there are gay chrsitan coalitions all over the world that support the idea that god made them gay and it does not effect there faith.

      Be careful of putting all gays in one anti-christan/religious box

      June 29, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • gobosox2010

      your name says it all, you have no common sense. the jazz band would receive funding from the school based on the school approving their requirements for membership. obviously the jazz band would require membership be that you play a instrument and pass an audition. since the school would approve this for funding, it would not be descrimination denying you membership because you don't play an instrument.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  15. Senoy

    Isn't this one of those cases where accommodation trumps common sense? Let's say that I want to open a chapter of the NAACP on campus. What prevents say my local KKK from seeding the organization with its own members? In order to receive the same funds that are given to every other group, I have to allow them membership, even if it means the destruction of the organization. Doesn't this seem counter-productive? The same thing can be said for any group that advocates any particular issue or set of issues. The local Sierra club can be inundated by the Young Republicans and vice versa purely for the intent of destroying the group. It seems to be a fairly ludicrous decision.

    June 28, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • gobosox2010

      its very simple, organizations like the NAACP and the KKK do not receive any public funding. therefor they can descriminate against anyone they want. the christian legal society wanted public funds but wanted to discriminate on membership. if you want public funding, you have to let anyone who wants to join.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
    • dalis

      So, we don't really have a problem with discrimination; it's just a simple issue of money(?).

      June 30, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Michael

      Dalis, the ones asking for PUBLIC money are the ones trying to get away with discriminating against members of the PUBLIC.
      When will you people get it through your heads? Jesus said "Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," speaking precisely about PUBLIC MONEY.

      June 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm |
    • gobosox2010

      if you are responding to me, then no i am not saying there is just a problem with money and not descrimination. we most certaintly do have a problem with discrimination in this country, there is no question about that. i do not believe it is right to descriminate but every person does have the right to descriminate if they want to. "what is right is not always popular, what is popular is not always right" – Albert Einstein

      June 30, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  16. Andy

    Equality before law. What the California law school done is 100% correct, assuming we live in US not in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan, or Indonesia.

    June 28, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • bostonjim

      Is it really equality under the law, though? I mean, the group believes gay marriage is wrong, and that sex before marriage is wrong. This does not mean that gays cannot join the group- they simply have to agree with the precepts of the group- which is pretty much the case with any group. What's more, I couldn't join either, despite being straight, as I am a proponent of both gay marriage and premarital sex. Am I being discriminated against? I think the issue is a lot less black and white than many would believe.

      June 28, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • gobosox2010

      its actually very black and white: if you want school funding, then don't discriminate. if you want to discriminate, you get get no school funding.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
    • Michael

      Funny how American fundamentalists rage about the evils of Islamic fundamentalism, yet share all the same basic values? Change their name for God and the name of their holy book, and you (or they themselves) would be hard put to tell them apart.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  17. Chris

    Is it discrimination to say, "This is what we believe, you can freely assent and join or freely descent and not join based upon whether your beliefs align with ours." Only in America are silly things like this considered discrimination. "If what's true for you is true for you and what's true for me is true for me, what if what I say is true says yours is a lie, is it still the truth?" -Lecrae

    June 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jean

      Chris – It is discrimination to expect a PUBLIC university to provide your group with priviledges and you want to exclude segments of that university's students. The group is free to meet and believe anything that they want to – but the university does not have to recognize them if they refuse to uphold the anti-discrimination policies of the university.

      June 28, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
  18. Bloke

    It's amazing that on some other sites people are saying this requires Christian groups to accept all. It does no such thing. It simply makes it clear that if your University has a non-discrimination policy in effect to qualify for funds you either agree to it or you get no funds. You can still meet, do what you want, and exclude anyone you want. Grow up people. Stop trying to make a ruling like this a bad thing. Remember what your parents used to say? "As long as you're living in my house, you'll follow my rules." Good job SCOTUS!

    June 28, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
    • Reality


      Well said!!!

      June 28, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • gobosox2010

      i agree, well said.

      June 30, 2010 at 2:40 pm |
    • Dan

      I agree

      June 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Actually, this decision has not been very well reported. When the case was originally brought, the university argued that the CLS policy violated their non-discrimination policy (which many schools have). However, during the course of the case, the university changed to argue that the CLS violated their "all-comers" policy, which stated that student organizations must accept as members and as officers anyone at all who wants to join. Under this sort of rule, environmentalist groups would have to accept global warming deniers as members/officers, and African-American groups would have to accept neo-nazis, etc.

      The Supreme Court's decision was that the CLS rules do violate the "all-comers" policy (duh!), and that they should not be permitted to do so. So, basically, freedom of association and/or freedom of religion do not allow groups like CLS to be exempt from an "all-comers" policy.

      The decision did NOT address two other questions: 1. Does freedom of assocation and/or freedom of religion allow groups like CLS to be exempt from "non-discrimination" policies? 2. Was the "all-comers" policy applied inconsistently (i.e., did the school apply it to CLS, but not to the environmentalist group, or whatever). CLS has claimed this was the case; the Supreme Court sent that decision back to the lower court.

      The decision about the "all-comers" policy is not very relevant to the wider society. Hardly any schools have one, since it is obvious to most school administrators that it would cause grave problems to nearly all associations to force them to accept as members and officers people who oppose their goals.

      July 1, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  19. RG

    The ruling was the correct one. People in this country seem to have the most difficult time understanding that, while we do have freedom of religion and expression, those rights do not trump the basic rights of others regarding equality. Meaning, if you want to be an idiot and stand on a soapbox in a park and scream at people about how they fall short of Biblical perfection, this is your right. But when you discriminate and attempt to diminish the rights of others based on your prejudice, that is where the line is drawn. I have to laugh at the bigots who are doing their damndest to prevent gays from being able to marry. If they REALLY believed what they said, we would also have the divorced and adulterers stripped of these rights. One of the faults with religion is that most folks apply it in "cafeteria" style, targetting people they "disapprove" of while daring not to turn the microscope on themselves. In this country we have freedom of religion. We also, thank God, have freedom FROM religion. Religious bigots, get over yourselves.

    June 28, 2010 at 3:00 pm |
    • Todd


      Ironic? Maybe 🙂 You wrote your comment extremely well, though, and I couldn't agree more. People just need to relax and not worry about taking rights away from other people. Honestly, if you ask someone who is vehemently against gay marriage how a gay marriage would affect his or her personal life, you will never get a true answer. That's because the correct answer is it will have zero effect! People just can't seem to get that through their heads. If you don't like it then don't do it yourself, but don't take that away from someone else.

      Well said RG.

      June 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • Robert

      Just because someone doesn't believe that gays should not marry doesn't make them a bigot. @Todd "if you ask someone who is vehemently against gay marriage how a gay marriage would affect his or her personal life, you will never get a true answer." People who vehemently oppose something tend to think from an emotional state, and it's hard to get a good argument from there. Some things just feel wrong and you don't really need more than that to oppose it. i.e If you can't figure out that tab A goes into slot B then you just miss the point. I oppose gay marriage because "marriage" is really there to share the burden of raising a family and for procreation. Marriages between men and women that don't yeild an off spring still promote the man woman model. The guy who doesn't know how to tell you how it affects him should be able to say... if you promote a disjointed and fruitless model you will reap a disjointed and fruitelss society. What two consenting people do behind closed doors is their business, but I don't want to know about it. I don't care if they are gay, just like I don't care if they are straight. But marriage should be between a man and woman.

      June 30, 2010 at 9:13 pm |
    • CSh

      Robert, the only problem with restricting the definition of marriage is that federal RIGHTS are given or withheld based on that definition. If 'marriage' is a religious concept based on Judeo-Christian ideals, then that word has no place in federal law.

      July 1, 2010 at 9:16 am |
    • Dan

      So true. Maybe if the religious groups would keep their noses out of politics no one would care. The minute you try to dictate my rights I will fight to make sure you follow every law and rule to the letter. Crucifix in a school room would not mean too much me but when the church funds opposition to abortion or gat rights then I will fight to remove that cross. It stops representing religion and starts representing the enemy.

      July 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  20. cat

    It was a great choice. Their reasoning for the decision was a valid one.

    June 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Paperclip411

      The way this case went made me a bit upset. Only b/c at my campus there are gay/straight groups, muslim, and even some asian associations that restrict people based on their, the associations, qualifications for lack of a better word. Not saying it's right by any means. I am just saying that if they take one away, they need to take them all away! I do think that the legal group should lift their limitations though. I just don't like how this case went. There is much I would love to say about this but cannot for fear of it being misunderstood 🙂

      July 1, 2010 at 11:27 am |
    • Vratar

      @Paperclip411: I get what you're saying, and agree to some extent, but the big difference between those other student groups and this ruling is that the student groups usually don't explicitly deny membership to those not meeting the apparent "qualifications". If you are a straight white male, you could still join the Gay/Lesbian group, or even the Asian Society if you really wanted to. There may be a lot of discomfort on both sides, but they couldn't turn you away. If they DID, just because you weren't like them, then they would be subject to the same SCOTUS ruling.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:45 am |
    • Ralph Gentry

      The court did the group a favor. If they accect School services then they can expect some strings to be attached. The Boy Scouts went through this a few years ago and seem to be doing fine. Groups have reasons for existing. Any time money/services is accepted don't be surprised if the giver has some expectations.

      July 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
    • CommonSense

      What a silly waste of the Supreme Court's time and intelligence! Why would anyone want to join a group that has beliefs contrary to their own? Because THEY don't believe in freedom of expression and want the group to change to hold THEIR beliefs! And they are going to force their viewpoint down the throats of people that don't want it! How rude!!!

      July 1, 2010 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bloke

      CommonSense, your name seems to be misleading. You seem to think that being gay or lesbian disqualifies someone from being Christian. That's why they'd like to be allowed to join.

      Even if that weren't the reason, the University has rules that groups must follow. When a group doesn't, they do not deserve funding. They can do whatever they want to do (Recruit purple, one eyed, nazi sympathizers from Uranus perhaps) as long as they don't expect University funds or recognition.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.