Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez

Recently, Scott Roche became aware about the now 6 year old legal battle Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez (UC Hastings) because it has finally reached the Supreme Court and the oral argument was presented on April 19, 2010  (transcript pdf available here). I posted some comments on his blog post.

What Happened?

Hastings College had a Christian Legal Society. It was only local. It had problems. It seemed as if it kept getting pressured away from certain spheres of activity. It wasn’t afforded some of the same benefits as other groups. Even recently, when they request to make use of a room, the School doesn’t get back to them until after the event and telling them to contact their lawyer. The Local group decided to join up with the National CLS. To do that, the group would have to ensure that their mission was related to the Gospel, the core beliefs of the National CLS, and the moral standards held by both groups (specifically abstaining from sexual immorality and so forth). Now, as a Nationally recognized chapter in a local venue, the local group wanted to be recognized like any of the other society’s and clubs in the school—but the school rejected them.

Why?

Well, here we see the collision of two forces. On the one hand the school has (which has been debatable—see below) a non-discrimination policy and an all-comers policy. They state that all subsidized clubs must be available and accessible to all students. On the other hand, the CLS rules state that although any student can join in the CLS—they can’t be a voting member or in a leadership role unless they adhere to the mission and statement of belief. The statement of belief is Trinitarian, explicitly Christian, and demands (as said above) moral rectitude: including sex only within the marriage bonds of a man and a wife.  The school said that this discriminates against Homosexuals. The CLS says it doesn’t discriminate against homosexuals—it bars anyone who is (now specifically) sexually immoral conduct from being a voting member or in leadership. Indeed, they had a homosexual member who eventually left the club—said person was never barred.

CLS says that the school policy is actually discriminatory because it’s putting an unfair burden on the CLS. To be a Christian as part of the Christian Legal Society demands that the Christian lead Bible Studies, teach the other students, take turn in the process—one must necessarily hold to what the religious organization believes in that respect. Pointing out other clubs (like OUTLAW) also required its members to uphold and stand by their mission statement and in some cases, even be Hispanic (La Raza)

Multifaceted Problems.

The media is painting this as a case where bigoted Christians refuse to allow lesbians and gays into their group but that’s not the case at all. Indeed, Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty agrees with the CLS case. The rules up fordiscussion are the non-discrimination policy and the all-comers policy—a rule which though cited as being on record in depositions by deans who functioned in that role as far back as 1993 though it doesn’t exist on any paperwork prior to 2005.

Indeed, with the amount of Amicus briefs that have been filed, the Supreme Court of the US was surprised that there wasn’t a bit more information supplied by the previous court that had heard the case. The school says that the all-comers policy is totally fine since no one has ever tried to join the group and take it down from the inside (say an atheist who joins with seventy other atheists, becomes the majority, and votes themselves into positions of authority) but the Court rightly notes that just because something hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that it’s okay to carry on with that rule. Indeed, another outright problem is that other clubs make these sort of distinctions (like the La Raza club specifically requests that their members are of Hispanic descent, the BLSA demands that its members adhere to their mission statement, etc.

The Christian’s Problem

But now, there’s another problem altogether—and that is Christians. Hearing what the media is reporting (while ignoring the many details in the case) they have made brash statements. Some start saying that Christians are being forced to recognize homosexuals. Others (like Scott) say that Christians are actually being discriminatory and anti-Christian by focusing on moralism instead of the Gospel. Other Christians have really been upset about the legitimacy of taking legal action. Questions about it being unchristian (since 1 Corinthians 6 talks about bringing lawsuits) to being an outright rejection of Christ’s love mandate to turn the other cheek: but these comments are pretty facile—I’ll deal with them below.

First, these Christians have ignored a lot of the finer points and the real questions that are being asked here. This isn’t question about discriminating against gays (CLS has repeatedly said they allow and welcome homosexuals and even homosexuals who are Christian—as long as they are not practicing the conduct) or Christian Clubs in School. It’s really a question if Schools have a right to make such an open law (especially take note of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the reintroduction of the Sherman Test argued for by CLS and ACLU!) and do religious organizations have a right to restrict their membership and leadership on their core beliefs. At the very least, the question of the constitutionality of an all-comers rule.

Second, 1 Corinthians 6 dealt with a specific cultural situation where the courts were more prone to be lenient to the richer party and really didn’t have much of a commitment beyond adhering to the greater laws of the land. Petty disputes would be taken to court and it might not matter how a ruling went. The legal battles in this country wind up being the precursor to legislation. It is only proper that our system, (predicated on legislature, legal suits, and finally implementation of further legislature) deals with such an issue at the court level.

Now frankly, it may be thrown out as a worthless suit vs. a policy that needs better clarification and implementation; who knows. That’s not the point I’m making. I’m just saying the discussion is going on where it should be.

Third, turning the other cheek might be fine for me as an individual—but it’s not right to mandate that when individual X is representative of a group of people, maybe even other religious groups. It may be fine for me to quietly be led to the lions but it would be an abject evil when I see other people (be it other religions or fellow Christians) being led to the lions. Sometimes Christians have to stand up and say “This is wrong.” I say as much in my ebook.

Forth, the super-moral high ground of “just preach the Gospel” is short-sighted. Yes you preach the Gospel, but you also have to address wrong doing. It was Christians who preached the Gospel AND adopted babies left outside to die who turned the world around and made such a practice unthinkable. It was Christians who sang with blacks in Church on a Sunday Evening who plastered the presses with their writings which embraced the Gospel and reflected on the Scriptural ramifications of passages that showed the wickedness of human slavery. Christians preach the Gospel AND stand up to say when something is wrong because the Gospel demands it.

Some personal closing and rambling observations.

Next week, I’ll be hosting a guestbloggers’ series of blog posts on the Law, ethics. I think that all ties in nicely with some of this.

In America, immigrants can’t vote until they become citizens—and yet that’s not discrimination. I can’t vote for Apple Board Members unless I buy into Apple Stock—that’s not discrimination.  I don’t know why such an open policy should be in place. Gay groups should be allowed to say in their mission statement “people who support the LGBT agenda”, etc.

The question about Free Speech is a good one. You would think that the best bet may be for the School to just pull out of the policing clubs business and let the students worry about this stuff but then you may get something really dangerous going on. It’s tough. But I think it’s important that voices have the freedom to speak—even if I don’t like what they’re saying.

Christians have gotta’ stop making a dividing line between the Gospel and Morality. There may be a question about the Mosaic Law, but there is no question that the Gospel makes ethical demands—even if those demands aren’t etched in stone tablets. The question of “love your neighbor” may be answered with a God-man dying on a tree—but the question of “how bad is sin?” gets the same response.

(Crossposted at Rey’s A Point)

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