OU DEEPLY DISAPPOINTED IN SUPREME COURT RULING UPHOLDING DENIAL OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ON CAMPUSES
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJCA), the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, representing nearly 1,000 congregations nationwide, expressed its deep disappointment with today’s 5-4 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court allowing a state government entity to deny the First Amendment rights of a religious organization.
The Supreme Court ruled a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won’t permit those who refuse to agree with its statement of beliefs join its membership. The Court rejected an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued University of California's Hastings College of the Law because the school had denied the CLS club official recognition as a campus group and thus equal access to law school meeting rooms and other resources. CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith that, among other points, regards “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” as being inconsistent with that faith. But Hastings said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation.
The majority opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group’s First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college’s decision. The central rationale for the majority was that Hastings Law School was not singling out CLS, or any religious group, for this treatment but that it applied its “reasonable” policy requiring students groups to admit “all comers” equally and consistently. The opinion also emphasized that this analysis is in the unique context of a university environment.
A dissenting opinion, written by Justice Alito, reviewed the factual record of the case extensively and demonstrated that the Hastings policy was neither consistent in its content nor application and was, in fact, designed to target CLS, and groups like it, for exclusion. The UOJCA filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case in support of CLS – a brief which was cited in Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion.
Nathan Diament, UOJCA director of public policy, issued the following statement:
“We are deeply disappointed by the Supreme Court’s ruling today. If the First Amendment guarantees anything, it guarantees the right of people of faith to associate and join in expressions of faith without state interference and without the state placing a burden on their religious activities. Today, the Supreme Court’s majority has given state universities a green light and a roadmap to condition a religious group’s rights on the state’s preferred beliefs. This decision should deeply trouble all those who cherish religious freedom.”