A Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter must allow law students who disagree with the group's statement of faith to take leadership positions, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled yesterday.

The University of California's Hastings College of Law refused to grant the chapter status as a "student-recognized organization" in 2004 because the CLS's mandatory statement of faith and ban on "unrepentant homosexual conduct" conflict with the school's nondiscrimination policy.

In Tuesday's decision, the Ninth Circuit said that all campus groups must abide by the same rules, so CLS was not being singled out for discrimination. The full text of the decision reads, "The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups — all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable."

But Timothy J. Tracey, CLS litigation counsel, says the court should have looked not just at what the school's open membership rule says, but also at how the school applies it. Tracey argued CLS's case at the Ninth Circuit last week.

You told the court, "Hastings allows other registered student organizations to require that their leaders and/or members agree with the organization's beliefs and purposes." But yet you also said that Hastings requires all groups to abide by this open membership rule. What's the difference?

We agreed this is what they say their policy is. What we didn't stipulate to was how the policy is being applied. It's clear that even if that's their policy — everyone has to let everyone in as members and leaders — they're granting exceptions. ...

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