Skip to content

Southern Illinois University settles lawsuit with Christian Legal Society, will recognize chapter

CLS student chapter free to enforce faith and conduct requirements for members and officers

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Attorneys with the Christian Legal Society and Alliance Defense Fund reached a settlement Wednesday with Southern Illinois University officials on behalf of the Christian Legal Society student chapter at SIU.  Under the settlement, SIU officials affirmed that CLS’s long-standing membership and leadership policies are now acceptable to the university, which allows CLS to be officially recognized.

“Every student group has the right to ensure that its leaders and members support its mission; religious student groups should be treated no differently,” said Casey Mattox, litigation counsel for CLS’s Center for Law & Religious Freedom.  “This settlement ensures CLS at SIU will enjoy all of the rights and benefits enjoyed by other law school organizations.”

SIU also agreed to establish a $10,000 scholarship fund, which CLS will administer, for deserving SIU law students.

ADF and CLS attorneys filed the case, Christian Legal Society at Southern Illinois University School of Law v. Walker, in April 2005 after SIU revoked the chapter’s registration and all of the associated benefits, stating that CLS’s “Statement of Faith” and sexual morality policy for its voting members and leaders violated a university affirmative action policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion and “sexual orientation.”

In July 2006, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit required the school to recognize the chapter while the case was pending.  The court ruled that the CLS chapter was likely to succeed on its claims that SIU violated the chapter’s freedom of association and freedom of speech rights and that CLS’s policy prohibiting members from engaging in sexual conduct outside of marriage is not “sexual orientation” discrimination.

“Today’s settlement can be highly credited to the 7th Circuit’s decision in this case, a landmark ruling for the rights of religious student organizations on college campuses,” Mattox explained.

ADF-allied attorney David O. Edwards of the Springfield law firm Giffin, Winning, Cohen & Bodewes, P.C., also represented the CLS chapter in the case. 

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.