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The U.S. Supreme Court hasn't taken on many significant religion cases lately. Perhaps the justices were resting up for what could be one of the biggest rulings yet: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which went before the court April 19, is in some eyes the title fight between anti-discrimination laws and religious identity. It's a case that both sides have long been waiting for.

At issue is an anti-discrimination rule at Hastings College of the Law (part of the University of California). Hastings says the rule means that the Christian Legal Society's (CLS) on-campus chapter cannot make its leaders sign a statement of faith and abstain from "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle." The school said student group leadership positions must be open to all students—even to those who would seek such positions precisely in order to destroy the purpose of the group.

If CLS loses the case, in time it would mean that "religious and other groups that adhere to traditional moral views could be driven from the public square in the name of enforcing nondiscrimination," CLS told the court.

A loss could "effectively remove evangelical organizations from state college and university campuses throughout the United States," according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the National Association of Evangelicals and other evangelical groups.

Even more than that, "It is not hyperbole to argue that … this case ultimately threatens the future of public education as we know it," said a friend-of-the-court brief from the Rutherford Institute. Hastings is subjecting the freedom of association on campus "to state censorship grounded in political ideology," the organization said.

The American Civil Liberties ...

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In the Magazine

May 2010

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