The Christian Legal Society had their big conference in Washington, DC, but not all of the participants walked away feeling good about the direction of the organization. One tipster reports:
I attended the CLS conference in Washington and was surprised and disappointed by its focus on the culture wars. The law student portion of the conference turned out to be two things. 1. It was a pity party for how Christian groups are so oppressed. (Right, because Jesus’ disciples thought following him was the ticket to getting on Law Review and SBA. Ummm. See Acts 1:1-28:30.) 2. The focus was an “us against them” rallying cry back to the culture war. There was much talk about the “Membership Statement of Faith and Sexual Morality Standards” that CLS chapter board members apparently have to sign, but nothing about compassion and caring that is supposed to mark Christians. See Matthew 25:35-46. At least for those of us who walked out in disgust, it was a very sad thing to witness.
In a follow up email sent yesterday, the Director of the Center for Law & Religious Freedom Christian Legal Society emphasized CLS’s “non-discrimination” policies:
As you will recall, I made a short presentation during the NSLC on Saturday afternoon. I distributed hard copies of the Q&A we prepared regarding the application of nondiscrimination policies to CLS law school chapters. For your convenience, I’ve attached an electronic copy to this email. …
Are you having any difficulties on your campus? Does your law school forbid student groups — even religious ones like CLS — from “discriminating” on the basis of religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity?
Please let me know. I’d very much appreciate hearing from you. And please let me know if there is anything that the CLS Center can do to serve you.
Blessings in Christ.
How the Christian Legal Society interprets anti-discrimination after the jump.
The primer sent around by the CLS is full of interesting nuggets, but it’s overall purpose is very clear:
However, whether a chapter is at a private or a public school, chapter officers must remain steadfast to these principles by refusing to accede to law school demands that they comply with problematic nondiscrimination rules.
This Guide is intended to help student chapter officers and members become familiar with the specific issue of how CLS membership and leadership requirements relate to – and often conflict with – law school nondiscrimination rules.
The first few pages emphasize the need to CLS leaders and members to adhere to Biblical standards of sexual morality. But then they get to their definition of discrimination:
Does the Membership Statement of Faith and Sexual Morality Standards discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation?
No, the Membership Statement of Faith and Sexual Morality Standards does not discriminate against persons based on their sexual orientation. CLS does not exclude any person from membership or officer positions on the basis of their heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual orientation at least to the extent that this term has its ordinary meaning, relating to an individual’s “predisposition or inclination toward a particular type of sexual activity or behavior.” BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY (8th ed.) (emphasis added).
An individual’s actual behavior and beliefs about that behavior, not simply his or her predisposition or inclination toward such behavior, are CLS’s concern.
Is the CLS distinction between sexual orientation and behavior legally valid?
Yes, the validity of the CLS distinction between sexual orientation and behavior is expressly recognized by legal precedent. For example, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held in Christian Legal Society v. Walker, 453 F.3d 853 (7th Cir. 2006), that “CLS’s membership policies are thus based on belief and behavior rather than status, and no language in [Southern Illinois University]‘s policy prohibits this.” Id. at 860. The relevant policy prohibited “sexual orientation” discrimination.
But wait, they’re not done:
Why do some persons perceive a conflict between CLS membership and officer requirements and law school nondiscrimination rules?
CLS membership and officer requirements make distinctions based on religious beliefs and sexual behavior. Law schools sometimes perceive that these requirements are in violation of their nondiscrimination rules prohibiting discrimination based on “religion,” “creed,” “sexual orientation,” “gender identity” or similar terms.
Is this a valid way to get around law school anti-discrimination rules? WWJD?
Membership & Leadership Requirements and Law School Nondiscrimination Rules [Christian Legal Society]