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Ohio State University throws in the towel, agrees to change non-discrimination policy

Faced with Christian Legal Society lawsuit funded by ADF, school agrees to allow religious student organizations to define their own membership
Published On: 10/18/2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Ohio State University has agreed to change its non-discrimination policy to allow religious organizations to define their own membership, thereby avoiding a lawsuit filed by the campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society with funding from the Alliance Defense Fund.

The university had threatened to revoke the registered student organization status of the chapter after the school learned that CLS did not allow non-Christians or homosexuals to hold office.  OSU requires registered student organizations to abide by its non-discrimination policy that states, in part, "Discrimination against any individual based upon....religion [or] sexual orientation…is prohibited."

"It makes no sense to require a student-led organization to admit people as officers who can undermine the group’s very reason for existence," said ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence.  "The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that organizations like CLS have the right to determine their own membership and to require that their members agree with the beliefs of the group."

After university officials received two complaints about the CLS chapter’s alleged violation of the non-discrimination policy, CLS Chapter President Michael Berry informed them that all students, including non-Christians and homosexuals, were welcome to attend CLS chapter meetings but just couldn’t be officers.

The chapter proposed a revision to the school’s non-discrimination policy that would exempt religious student groups from the religious, creed, and sexual orientation components of the policy with respect to the selection of members and officers.  The university began a review process, during which they repeatedly stated that the chapter’s proposed language was not acceptable.

The chapter filed suit against university officials on March 12 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, but Friday the school agreed to allow CLS and other religious student organizations to restrict membership in order to remain consistent with their beliefs.

Thursday, a federal district court judge in Texas struck down restrictive "speech zone" and "speech code" policies at Texas Tech University in a case filed by ADF and allied attorneys.  ADF attorneys also filed suit against University of North Carolina officials on August 25 for that university’s decision to deny recognition to a fraternity that refused to sign the school’s non-discrimination policy.

Either through funding or direct litigation, ADF has won victories for the religious expression rights of students at several well-known universities.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family. 

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