- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Supreme Court said Monday it will decide whether a California law school violated the constitutional rights of a Christian group by denying it recognition as an official campus organization because it excludes gays and lesbians.

The justices agreed to intervene in a case that pits anti-discrimination policies common on college campuses against freedoms of religion and association.

The Christian Legal Society at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law requires officers and voting members to share their religious beliefs, including that “Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

The group filed a federal lawsuit after the San Francisco law school refused to accord it official status. The school said all official campus groups, which are eligible for funding and other benefits, may not exclude people because of religious belief, sexual orientation and other reasons.

Federal courts in San Francisco rejected the group’s assertions that the law school’s policy violated its freedoms of speech, religion and association. The justices agreed to hear the group’s appeal, and arguments will take place in the spring.

The 30-member Hastings group was told in 2004 that it was being denied recognition because of its policy of exclusion.

“The court below got it wrong, and we’re trusting that the Supreme Court will correct this,” said Kim Colby, senior counsel with the Christian Legal Society’s Center for Law and Religious Freedom.

According to a society news release, it invites all students to its meetings.

“However, CLS voting members and officers must affirm its Statement of Faith,” the statement said. “CLS interprets the Statement of Faith to include the belief that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman.”

The Christian Legal Society has chapters at universities nationwide. The group has sued other universities on the same grounds.

It won at Southern Illinois University, when the university settled with the group in 2007 and recognized its membership and leadership policies.

In other action Monday, the court:

• Cast doubt on the validity of part of the anti-fraud law enacted in response to Enron and other corporate scandals early this decade. Justices heard arguments in a case over the composition of the board that was created to tighten oversight of internal controls and outside auditors.

• Seemed headed toward telling police they have to explicitly warn criminal suspects that their lawyer can be present during any interrogation. The arguments in front of the justices were the latest over how explicit the Miranda warning rights have to be, as justices debated whether the warnings police gave Kevin Dwayne Powell made clear to him that he could have a lawyer present while being interrogated by police.

• Will decide whether judges have to follow strict sentencing guidelines at sentence-modification hearings. Justices agreed to hear an appeal from an inmate who was sentenced to 322 months in prison in Pennsylvania on crack cocaine and firearms charges.

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