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. academic

    At my graduate school, the activity fee money was mandatory. Furthermore, student government was inclined to increase the fee in order to support particular causes they liked. In reality, the school is probably imposing a subsidy of those student groups that it likes.

    July 14, 2010 at 12:00 pm |
  2. Janet

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that the money the group is asking for is a portion of the "activity fee" money which they paid in and then is parceled out by the university to various groups, many of which hold positions in opposition to theirs, but to which they have no opportunity to withhold funds. So, it's not public funding or tax dollars. It's dollars the students have paid in to support student activities.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Bloke

      You leave out the part: THey pay in funds KNOWING the University policy. You come to my house, you follow my rules. Period. Don't like it, go elsewhere off my property and do what you want.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  3. Gaucho420

    Of course its fine. The difference between an all white group, all black group, asian, latino, whatever and this is that no one chooses to be black, white, asian...we are all born one way or another without choice. But being a CHRISTIAN is a choice...its a belief and nothing more.

    Its not different than a group saying to be part of it, you have to beleive in Zeus and you have to belive this and that particular ceremony of Zeus in order to be let in. That group would also not get recognition either. Zeus and JC are no different to non-beleivers, its just made up fairy tales to us.

    That's the difference.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  4. Danny Boy

    "The koran dictates that male Muslims should rule the world and do so by any means. The male Muslims in Tennessee are no different and therefore as with all Muslims cannot be trusted."

    What organized religion doesn't? It might be more subtle but it's there.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  5. Danny Boy

    It's about public funding...not your right to exercise your religion! Good grief...why can't people understand this concept? Would you want your taxes funding a Muslim school that restricted anyone but Muslims? C'mon...some of you cannot be this slow. And eliminating all organizations within a university is copping out....you don't get your way so let's get rid of all it. Right. Learn to share and stop being babies.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  6. Bob

    If you want public funds you can't descriminate, period! However, the group doesn't need to cater their message to the GLBT crowd so if they want to join and then listen to how their way of life is abnormal, disease spreading, and against all laws of nature, let them in. They have the law on their side to join, but the first amendment offers them no protection from the groups stated thoughts and beliefs.

    July 1, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  7. Harry

    If they bylaws of a local chapter of an organization cannot be upheld there is no viable reason to have that chapter. IF it is truely an academic university then what purpose do any campus organizations have? Solve your problems with prohibiting ALL oficially organized groups! After all they detract from the concentration on study and side track the mind. Yes... ALL... even sororities.

    July 1, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  8. Mark from Middle River

    At first glance I was concerned about this decision but at the same time I do remember two instances in my life. First was that I had a chance to visit a LGBT church in New York and the second was how I was treated when I got to sit in on a black mens forum at my college. It wasn't until tonight, when I read this news article that I see how these two moments of my life actually had more in common than I have ever thought.

    When I visited this church in New York I discovered that I should not judge another Christians relationship with God. The second was the reminder of how I was treated in the black mens forum when I told them that I was a conservative Republican. You would have thought that I came in the classroom waving a Confederate flag and wearing a klan robe. The same group that was expressing the need for more tolerance on our campus, could not bring itself to accept my political leanings and views. There was always one that felt because I voted for GWB that there was no way I was a black male.

    The way I view this article is that if a college has a Christian group, which is great, but when dealing with doctrine I can see how it could be problematic.

    July 1, 2010 at 1:40 am |
  9. Red Ridinghood

    Liberal View:
    Moral Boundaries = Agreed Upon Discrimination
    Agreed Upon Discrimination = Legal System
    Legal System = Individual Rights
    Government Enforces Your Rights

    Conservative View:
    Government Guarantees Your Freedom
    Natural Law = Moral Truth
    Moral Truth = Legal System
    People are Rational and Can Make Their Own Choices within Context of Legal System

    Traditional Moral Law (Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.) is not fully encompassed in Legal System
    Freedom of religion guarantees that people can practice their moral laws as long as they don't break laws of Legal System
    People cannot be forced to join a religion

    Is funding a religious group forcing people to join a religion? Liberal -> Yes / Conservative -> No
    Is funding a religious group that has moral laws (agreed upon discrimination within context of group's moral laws) and that doesn't break Laws of Legal System discriminatory? Liberal -> Yes / Conservative -> No
    Is not funding a religious group because of its legal moral stances discriminatory? Liberal -> No / Conservative -> Yes

    Groups by ontological definition are discriminatory. Freedom of belief and speech are of the highest of human rights. Everyone puts into the tax pool by law and should be able to take from it. Denying religious groups public funding is discriminatory, denies the right to freedom of religion, undermines freedom of speech and belief, and is typical of an ideology of homogenization and socialism so strongly exposed by the current administration and Democratic party. Another step away from individual freedom that has been the bedrock (though very messy at times) of our country's success. Believe what you want, group as you want, speak as you want, equal funding for all, adhere to the laws of the land. Can and will get messy but at least we'll have freedom.

    OK Let's hear the rebuke by the "philosopher kings".

    July 1, 2010 at 1:12 am |
  10. AoK

    This is an issue of freedom, freedom of religion, thought, and identity. What we are saying is that core doctrine is no longer allowed if that doctrine disagrees with the political views of some in society.

    We allow, for example, Communists to express their views. Now if a bunch of good old capitalists wanted to join the Communist Legal Society one could see a conflict of goals there. The ideals of the candidates do not match the organization. Therefore if one can not uphold the values of the organization, why should they be allowed to join?

    Now I’m not in favor of Communism, but it is an ideology that is legitimate in academics just as Christianity, Muslim, or Jewish faith is relevant to our culture. Why should any of these organizations not get school funds because they have core of beliefs that define who is part of the group and who is not part of the group?

    From my understanding, this Christian group does not defame or belittle any group on campus but does have a core doctrine that makes faith a deciding factor in their membership. Their definition of what it means to be a Christian can certainly be open for debate, but it is not discrimination to have a definition of what it means to be a member of a religion and live by those standards, just like it is not discrimination to have Greek standards, unless everyone who has ever been in a Greek organization is saying that every Greek Fraternity or Sorority must accept everyone who applies. Do we really want organizations and religions that don’t have an identity and don’t stand for anything? I don’t. Our melting pot has always tried to allow for the distinctiveness of our diversity, allowing for our culture uniqueness with the context of freedom. That is what our laws should uphold. Otherwise, worse case scenario, couldn’t a NAACP Legal Society be forced to accept skin heads to join?

    July 1, 2010 at 12:01 am |
    • Bloke

      The issue here is that gays, lesbians, and others can have faith in Christianity (or any other religion). It isn't about asking the group to accept heathens (though surely that will happen to a minor extent.) This group can do whatever they want and invite whomever they want if they choose not to accept money that has restrictions attached.

      If you visit my house and I tell you there is no smoking allowed, and that I will also pay you to clean up for me, do lawn care, etc. I would expect you to do as I direct you and expect to receive the money agreed upon. If you come in and do not follow my rules and/or do shoddy work, I will not pay you and not allow you to be a guest in my house.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  11. rainier08

    So......did this organization also believe that divorced people who remarry are also not welcome ? Jesus himself says that remarriage after divorce is adultry. Funny that never gets mentioned by these " Christian " groups who one would thing might adhere to .....CHRIST..as in CHRISTian.

    June 30, 2010 at 11:44 pm |
  12. E

    What do you think would happen if you put a bunch of Roman Catholics on the Supreme Court? You get what you asked for!!!

    June 30, 2010 at 11:05 pm |
  13. Roscoe

    By the logic of SCOTUS, men can now join women's groups. Straights can take over gay groups. All campus groups must be open to everyone. Wait until a bunch of white supremacists want to join the Black Student Union. That's all okay now. Let the fun begin!

    June 30, 2010 at 10:56 pm |
    • Bill

      No it does not What is says if that if you want your school, or the public, to finance it, then you must play by their rules. You do not have a right to my money for your pet cause anymore than I have a right to make you pay for my NOW membership.

      July 1, 2010 at 11:37 am |
  14. Dennis Watts

    No! It was a blow for civil rights of individuals being discriminated against. A school campus is not a church.

    June 30, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  15. ligaya143

    So does it mean that the boy scouts can already accept girls and gays ?

    June 30, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
  16. TotalNonSense

    Religion (all of them) is not compatible with human life (at least those of us with a IQ higher then 10)

    June 30, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
  17. Rick

    I agree that a christian organization shouldn't be able to exclude gay or lesbian christians. But what about the avowed atheist anarchists who join, just to disrupt the organization and to be pills. Should a christian organization at least be able to limit its members to other christians? That doesn't bother me. By the way, I'm an atheist. If I belonged to an organization of fellow atheists (I don't, but what if I did), should we be required to admit evangelical christians to the group, who might disrupt the group or spend all the time trying to convert us?

    June 30, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
    • Bloke

      In that case the group can fall back to their own rules of conduct. The university would understand excluding someone based on disruptive, illegal, or otherwise harmful behavior to the group.

      July 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  18. Burgie

    It's about time!

    June 30, 2010 at 6:05 pm |
  19. John A. Estes, II (L)

    The 'issue' of a Core, group: because because of Gay's vs. Marrage, issue? So, the Episcopal church with two Gay bishop's is a non-issue; of choice? Just to bust-up, thing's & in oppsition to Christ(ian's) requirement to Love (faith-Based vs. Secular, defined) 210%, Love without Fear of the World (gay's)!!! Seeing secular-christian's mean-Sprited, exercise. From FEAR & unLoved.!!! There is a PLACE, for those...! open to all not-against each-other BUT, Army 'division's' with differant 'missions' & area's to be avaible.... church's, service's, parish's JUST unit's of...NOT devided. Still a Cathloic-Bible we all use.
    Faith belong's at "Home" in the family pratice. Weekly get togather's FOR an Hour or so IS small to listen & thank-you's.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  20. AshannaK

    It really doesn't matter whether the Courf was right or wrong. Whatever answer is given will not satisfy everyone.
    Religion is a 'war-starting' subject. Just ask the Arabs and the Israelis. If a group wants to set themselves up
    and discriminate against a group for whatever reason, why would those discriminated against want to join them in
    the first place? We are allowed Freedom of Expression in this country unless, that is, the Bill of Rights has been
    repealed. If it has, someone didn't tell me.

    June 30, 2010 at 5:08 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.