A campus student group that was denied recognition because it required leaders to hold Christian beliefs filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

Officials at the University of California’s Hastings College of Law in San Francisco rejected the Christian Legal Society student chapter two years ago because they believed the group’s requirement that officers and voting members subscribe to the group’s Christian beliefs constituted “discrimination” in violation of school policy.

The Arizona-based Alliance Defense Fund and attorneys with the Christian Legal Society filed suit against UC Hastings officials in October 2004, claiming the nondiscrimination policy targets religious student groups in violation of their First Amendment rights.

The student group is appealing a decision last month by a California district court which ruled the college had not violated its constitutional rights.

“Christian student groups should not be treated differently from other student groups that wish to maintain their own identity and core beliefs,” said Litigation Counsel Tim Tracey of the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.

“School officials need to realize the difference between invidious discrimination and merely seeking to maintain a Christian identity,” Tracey said. “How long is a Christian student group going to remain Christian if it can’t require its leaders to support its beliefs?”

The federal civil rights lawsuit alleges UC Hastings is violating the First Amendment rights of expressive association, free speech and free exercise of religion.

The school insists 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.”

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

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