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Student Group Tests Law School's Equality Interests

Publication Date: 
April 19, 2010
USA Today
Joan Biskupic

Professor Michael McConnell who is representing the Christian Legal Society in its case against Hastings College of the Law, is quoted in USA Today. Joan Biskupic filed this story:

In spirited and sometimes testy exchanges, the Supreme Court struggled Monday with whether a state-run law school may refuse to recognize a religious student group that keeps out gay students and non-Christians.

"Why doesn't this all work out?" Justice Anthony Kennedy asked in frustration at one point. "If the Christian Legal Society has these beliefs, I am not so sure why people that don't agree with them want to belong to them."


Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, representing the Christian Legal Society chapter at Hastings, argued that the campus policy of requiring groups to admit students who do not accept their message is a "frontal assault on freedom of association" under the First Amendment.

"If Hastings is correct, a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to demand to lead a Christian Bible study," McConnell said, insisting that the group had been specifically targeted by Hastings.


Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked McConnell whether his argument against Hastings' open-membership policy would allow groups to widely discriminate.

"Are you suggesting that if a group wanted to exclude all black people, all women, all handicapped persons," Sotomayor asked, "that a school has to accept that group and recognize it, give it funds and otherwise lend it space?"

McConnell said no, that the CLS chapter was arguing only that it should be able to keep people from fully participating based on their contrary beliefs, in this case, for example, in favor of homosexual marriage.

"Note how destructive an all-comers policy directed toward beliefs would be," McConnell added, saying that a NAACP chapter would have to allow in "a racist skinhead."