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Supreme Court To Hear All-Comers Policy Case

Publication Date: 
April 19, 2010
Source: 
National Public Radio (NPR)
Author: 
Nina Totenberg

Professor Michael McConnell, who is representing the Christian Legal Society talks to Nina Totenberg of National Public Radio about the U.S. Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society Chapter of University of California Hastings College of Law v. Martinez:

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a major case testing whether state colleges and universities can deny official status and subsidies to student groups that bar homosexuals and other groups from membership. The case could affect public colleges and universities across the country, and it puts the court in the middle of a long struggle by Christian activists who contend that their rights are violated on campus by secular rules.

Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco has for 20 years had what it calls an all-comers policy. Any student group is entitled to official school recognition, as long as the group accepts all comers. Official recognition entitles the group to a small subsidy, preferred use of campus facilities, use of all campus bulletin boards and e-mails and use of the school logo.

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But Stanford law professor Michael McConnell, representing the Christian Legal Society, says the CLS policy is not discriminatory.

"Not in the sense of being an invidiously discriminatory policy. There is absolutely nothing wrong with groups of Americans gathering together around shared beliefs," McConnell says. "It's OK for feminists to have a feminist club. It's OK for environmentalists to have an environmentalists club, and it's OK for Christians to have a Christian club. That isn't discrimination. It's freedom of association."

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McConnell disagrees. "It cannot be true that governmental units can deny whatever they classify as benefits, not matter how essential those benefits may be to the survival of an expressive association, on the basis of whatever they label discrimination," he says. "That would mean that tax-exempt status could be denied to Orthodox synagogues because they segregate men from women."