Christian Legal Soc'y Chapter of the Univ. of Cal. v. Martinez

561 U.S. 661



The Supreme Court has ruled that a state's right to preserve property under its control justifies a state's restrictions on access to a limited public forum, as long as any access barrier is reasonable and viewpoint neutral.


The Hastings College of Law failed to recognize the Christian Legal Society chapter, because state law requires all registered student organizations to allow any student to participate, become a member of the organization, or seek leadership positions within the organization. However, the CLS did not do this - instead requiring its members to attest in writing: "I believe in: The Bible as the inspired word of God; The Deity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, God's son; The vicarious death of Jesus Christ for our sins; His bodily resurrection and His personal return; The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration; [and] Jesus Christ, God's son, is Lord of my life." The CLS sued the school for First Amendment violations, and the Trial Court dismissed the case. Plaintiffs appealed, and on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the school's conditions on recognizing student groups were viewpoint neutral and reasonable. Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.


Did the university's policy regarding accepting all who wish to participate in a club, violate the club member's First Amendment rights?




Though plaintiff's expressive activity was protected, it had no constitutional right to having the state follow its selectivity. The Court held that the school could reasonably decide that the educational experience was promoted by the inclusion policy. the policy ensured that no student would have to fund a group that would reject it as a member. The school's desire to redress the perceived harms of exclusionary membership policies was an adequate explanation over and above mere disagreement with any group's beliefs. In seeking an exemption from the school's policy, the group sought preferential, not equal, treatment; a Free Exercise of Religion Clause claim failed.

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