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Supreme Court of the United States

Deluge of Amicus Briefs: 14 State Attorneys General Agree that Christian Students Should Not be Forced to Deny Their Faith

October 17, 2017

Yesterday, a deluge of amicus (friend of the court) briefs supporting the Christian Legal Society were filed at the Supreme Court.   At least 21 briefs were filed in support of CLS, and I believe there are a few more that I have not seen yet.  This is a  substantial number of supporting amicus briefs, although not a record for the Supreme Court. 

   The broad array of briefs supporting religious liberty and the Christian Legal Society is amazing.  For example, 14 states, through their attorneys general joined togehter in a brief authored by the State of Michigan supporting CLS. The states include a geographic diversity from sea to shining sea of Alabama, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.   

    Diverse religious groups agreed that the Constitution protects the right of a private group to define and select their officers and members. Muslim and Sikh groups joined African-American and Hispanic Christian pastors in an amicus brief by the Becket Fund.  Two Jewish groups filed briefs -  the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations and Agudath Israel of America also agree with CLS that religious liberty means a private group should be able to use its own theological standards to decide who qualifies as its leaders or members.

    Several briefs deserve special note.  A former Solicitor General of the United States under President George W. Bush, Paul Clement, co-wrote an amicus brief with Jay Sekulow and Walter Weber of the American Center for Law and Justice.  The Solicitor General is an important position in the U.S. Department of Justice that represents the U.S. Government before the Supreme Court.  It is very prestigious to have a former Solicitor General supporting CLS, but it is doubly important because the University of California-Hastings has hired another former Solicitor General, Greg Garre, to defend its use of its discrimination policy to kick CLS off campus.  

   The ACLJ brief is noteworthy because many major Christian campus organizations have joined the brief, such as Campus Crusade for ChristIntervarsity Christian Fellowship,  Chi Alpha and others.  These organizations have suffered for years on college campuses, when officials require them to allow non-Christians to run or join their Christian organizations as the price to be able to meet on campus.  Of course, no other student group is required to accept students who disagree with the mission of the organization. For example, no university would require a student group supporting animal rights to accept as officers or members students who worked as lumberjacks, taxidermists, or who eat hamburgers at In-N-Out.   The universities with these policies force only the religious groups (really, only the Christian student grouprs) to accept nonadherents as members or officers.

    If you are looking for one amicus brief that advocates the right position in a clear, straightforward manner, I would point you to the brief filed by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).  FIRE has fought for years on campuses around the nation for the rights of students, their organizations and faculty to speak freely, to advocate their ideas collective in free associations and to protect individual's right of conscience against university censorship, punishment, banishment and opprobation.  FIRE's brief is outstanding in its advocacy and model of clarity in its writing.

   Lastly, there is even a brief written by one of the most insightful and influential Christian theologians living today, Wayne Grudem.  Dr. Grudem wrote this brief on behalf of a number of evangelical Christian scholars and heads of the Evangelical Theological Society.  This brief explains the Biblical views followed by CLS on their religious beliefs to lead or join the organization, and their Biblical beliefs surrounding marriage and sexual purity.  It is well worth reading and studying.  Dr. Grudem, as he did in his Systematic Theology book and others, writes in a thorough and easy-to-understand manner.  

      UC-Hastings and its attorneys will have about a month to write their main merits brief.  The amici supporting Hastings will submit their briefs a week later during the second week of March.  Although the Supreme Court has not yet officially set an oral argument date for the CLS case, I predict that it will be during the Court's sitting, which is the last two weeks of April.  The high court will probably hand down a decision in the case by late June, before the end of the Court's term.

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