This may not be audio of Bono singing one of U2's greatest hits, or the cast of the Sound of Music reminiscing at their 45th reunion, but it is the audio recording of an ADF attorney arguing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on November 1, 2010 in Pasadena, California. This was the first appellate court to hear a case on the right of campus religious groups to select their own members and officers since the Supreme Court's disappointing decision last June in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
The case involves a Christian sorority (Alpha Delta Chi) and fraternity (Alpha Gamma Omega) that were denied official recognition by San Diego State University because they require their officers and members to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. These Christian students banded together to form groups to provide a more focused living environment to learn about Christ and the Bible, and to forge a more dedicated group of Christians to evangelize and serve the SDSU community.
But the fact that these two groups required their officers or members to believe in Christ was too much for officials at San Diego State, so they denied the groups official recognition. SDSU called this "religious discrimination." SDSU called this the most severe punishment it could impose on a student group. Denial of official recognition means that SDSU excludes the groups from easy access to the main avenues of communicating with fellow students at SDSU. For example, they could not set up tables with literature and displays on the main mall where many students walk each day, especially during Rush Week, when other fraternities and sororities recruited new members. Also, in order to rent a room to meet on campus for an event, they would have to pay ten times what a registered group would pay (for example, $1500 vs. $150 for a meeting room at the Aztec Center at SDSU). In effect, SDSU has banished these Christian groups from full participation in campus life.
But that's not all. SDSU does not require any other group to do what it forces religious groups to do. Oblivious to its brazen double standard, SDSU admits that it allows all campus organizations to require its members and officers to believe in the mission and message of the organization, unless those beliefs are religious. So that means the feminist group can require its members to support legalized abortion (and exclude prolifers) and the environmental group can require its members to support recycling and forest restoration (and exclude chainsaw-wielding lumberjacks). But the Christian groups cannot require its members to believe in the Bible and Christ, and must allow atheists and Buddhists to serve as officers. The University claims it is eliminating "discrimination" with such a lopsided rule!
This anti-religion policy at SDSU cuts with incredible discriminatory precision. A secular antiwar group at SDSU can exclude students who support military action, but if Quakers formed an antiwar group based on their pacifistic religious beliefs, SDSU would require it to admit members who believe in just war. This is obvious viewpoint discrimination against religious groups in flagrant violation of the First Amendment.
I was privileged to argue the case at the Ninth Circuit, and I could not have done it without the able assistance of Jeremy Tedesco, who handled the case at the trial court level. So gather the family, grab some popcorn, click on the link and hear a real live ADF attorney battling in court.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that will outline how some key courtroom victories help protect freedom in five critical areas.
While hundreds of thousands of people streamed into casinos, Nevada churches were prohibited from holding worship services with more than 50 people—under threat of criminal and civil penalties.
The First Amendment protects our freedom to peacefully practice the religion we choose. But when COVID-19 hit the United States and lockdowns began, some government officials seemed to forget this.