Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds College Anti-Bias Policy

There’s a bit of a dust up going on in university and legal circles. It seems that many universities require that in order to obtain official approval, any club must agree to the school’s anti-bias policy. Some clubs are refusing based on their objection to the inclusion of homosexuals in that policy. The university then denies approval, which leads the club (with religious right backing) to take the them to court.

One major test case comes from the Hastings College of Law of the University of California. According to the original opinion (pdf), the Hastings College anti-bias policy is as follows:

The College is committed to a policy against legally impermissible, arbitrary or unreasonable discriminatory practices. All groups, including administration, faculty, student governments, College-owned student residence facilities and programs sponsored by the College, are governed by this policy of nondiscrimination….

The University of California, Hastings College of the Law shall not discriminate unlawfully on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation. This nondiscrimination policy covers admission, access and treatment in Hastings-sponsored programs and activities.

The problem is that the Hastings Christian Fellowship (HCF) became affiliated with the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF) in 2004. The CLF (stay with me!) requires that all members a) sign a statement of faith, and b) not participate in “unrepentant homosexual conduct”. This requirement broke two of the stipulations in the Hastings policy, meaning that the HCF could not gain official status, which meant that the HCF couldn’t use the school’s name or school grounds.

The CLF took the case to court, arguing that the religious basis of the club’s rule should take precidence over the Hastings rule. The court found  (in the pdf I linked to above) that Hastings was within its rights to deny approval.

Yesterday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling. The decision is two sentences long.

The parties stipulate that Hastings imposes an open membership rule on all student groups — all groups must accept all comers as voting members even if those individuals disagree with the mission of the group. The conditions on recognition are therefore viewpoint neutral and reasonable.

Note that the problem is not that the HCF doesn’t want The Homosexuals. The problem is that agreeing to that is a requirement for membership. You can not want The Homosexuals you want, but make it official and you’ve got a problem.

This issue is expected to get to the Supreme Court soon, possibly with the Hastings case.