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Supreme Court Decision On Law School's Anti-Bias Policy May Have Limited Impact

Publication Date: 
June 29, 2010
The Chronicle Of Higher Education
Peter Schmidt

Professor Michael McConnell is quoted in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. McConnell is representing the Christian Legal Society in challenging the anti-bias policy and its effect on student organizations with belief-based membership criteria at UC Hastings College of the Law:

A bitterly divided U.S. Supreme Court held Monday that a California public law school did not violate the First Amendment in denying official recognition to a Christian student group that effectively excluded homosexual students from membership based on their beliefs and behaviors. But the parties involved in the case, as well as experts on student organizations, disagree over whether many colleges have policies similar enough to the one at issue in the case to be affected by the decision.

In its 5-to-4 ruling, the Supreme Court held that the University of California's Hastings College of the Law acted reasonably, and in a viewpoint-neutral manner, in refusing to officially recognize and give funds to a campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society because the group refused to abide by the school's requirement that student groups open their membership to all.


But Michael W. McConnell, a lawyer who argued the Christian Legal Society's case before the Supreme Court, predicted that the ruling actually would have a limited impact on colleges, because, he argued, few actually have the sort of all-comers policy for student groups that the majority ruled on.

"The policy that the Supreme Court addressed is highly abstract and hypothetical," said Mr. McConnell, director of the Stanford Law School's Constitutional Law Center. He expressed confidence that the Christian Legal Society would be able to demonstrate in the lower court that Hastings has enforced its policies selectively, in a manner that hurts religious groups.