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Christian campus group must accept non-believers

A Christian group is suing a state university that rejected its recognition on campus because it will not accept officers and members who openly oppose its religious beliefs.

The University of California’s Hastings College of Law says the Christian Legal Society chapter’s criteria violate the school’s Policy on Nondiscrimination.

The policy forces the CLS chapter, and other campus religious groups who want to be recognized, to accept non-Christian members and officers.

The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleges UC Hastings is violating the First Amendment rights of expressive association, free speech and free exercise of religion.

The CLS chapter asked school officials in early September to exempt the group and other religious student organizations from the policy but were denied.

The school insisted that “to be one of our student-recognized organizations, the CLS chapter must open its membership to all students irrespective of their religious beliefs or sexual orientation.”

UC Hastings then stripped the CLS chapter of its yearly funding, despite promises already made by university officials to provide for certain chapter-related expenses.

“It is outrageous that the University of California, which was at the epicenter of the struggle for campus free speech in the 1960’s, should now refuse to recognize a student group’s fundamental right to choose to associate with those who share their beliefs,” said Steven H. Aden, chief litigation counsel for the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom in Annandale, Va.

Aden said the university is only “the latest in a string of colleges across the country to face litigation because they value political correctness over religious liberty.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, the Alliance Defense Fund, and allied attorneys Timothy Smith and Stephen Burlingham.