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Hastings Defends Anti-Bias Policy At High Court

Publication Date: 
April 20, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Bob Egelko

Professor Michael McConnell is quoted from the courtroom in his representation of the Christian Legal Society in the U.S. Supreme Court Case Christian Legal Society Chapter of University of California Hastings College of Law v. Martinez. Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

UC Hastings College of the Law and a Christian club that excludes gays and lesbians battled before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday over whether the school must recognize and fund the group, a clash between a public university's anti-discrimination policies and a religious organization's right to set its own standards.

The Christian Legal Society, backed by numerous religious and conservative groups, argued that the San Francisco law school was trying to force organizations to surrender their principles in exchange for access to meeting rooms and bulletin boards.

"If Hastings is correct, a student who does not even believe in the Bible is entitled to demand to lead a Christian Bible study," the group's lawyer, Stanford law Professor Michael McConnell, told the justices in Washington. A campus NAACP chapter, he said, "would have to allow a racist skinhead to sit in on its planning meetings."


"Are you suggesting that if a group wanted to exclude all black people, all women, all handicapped persons ... that a school has to accept that group and recognize it?" Sotomayor asked McConnell, the Christian group's lawyer.

No, McConnell replied, because the Christian Legal Society is seeking only to deny membership based on applicants' beliefs, not on their race.

"What if the belief is that African Americans are inferior?" asked Justice John Paul Stevens.

McConnell, with prompting from Scalia, said such an organization, if it existed, should be allowed to deny membership to anyone who disagreed with its beliefs.