CHICAGO — The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit today granted the request of Alliance Defense Fund and Christian Legal Society attorneys to order officials with Southern Illinois University to reinstate the official registered status of the student CLS chapter at the university’s School of Law. Official recognition as a registered student group grants the CLS chapter the full benefits associated with that status while the case is pending in district court.
“A religious student organization should not be required to sacrifice its integrity at the altar of political correctness,” said Litigation Counsel Casey Mattox of CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom. “Today’s decision recognizes that the First Amendment prohibits a public university from making that requirement. This is a tremendous victory for religious freedom on college campuses, but we will continue to move forward with the case and defend the CLS chapter’s constitutional rights.”
ADF and CLS attorneys filed Christian Legal Society Chapter at Southern Illinois University School of Law v. Walker in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in April 2005 after the school revoked the chapter’s registered status and all of the benefits associated with it. SIU officials claim the CLS chapter’s requirement that its voting members and leaders adhere to basic Christian beliefs violates the university’s affirmative action policy.
In July, a federal district court judge denied the chapter’s request for a preliminary injunction, and the group appealed the decision to the 7th Circuit. A three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit ordered SIU officials to recognize the CLS chapter on an interim basis. Today, the 7th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision and granted the preliminary injunction requested by the CLS chapter.
The court ruled that the CLS chapter is likely to succeed in district court on its claims that SIU violated its freedom of association and freedom of speech rights. The court also held that CLS’s policy prohibiting members to engage in sexual conduct outside of marriage is not sexual orientation discrimination.
ADF-allied attorney David O. Edwards of the Springfield law firm Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C., is also representing the CLS chapter in the case. Wisconsin-based ADF-allied attorney Michael Dean also assisted in filing a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Every Nation Campus Ministries and the Family Research Council.
Together, ADF, America’s largest legal alliance, and CLS, America’s premier membership organization of Christian legal professionals, defend religious liberty, human life, marriage, and the family.