A Christian legal group that sued Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco over its nondiscrimination policy lost its remaining claim against the school in a federal appeals court today.
In June, the Christian Legal Society lost its first claim against the University of California law school in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court by a 5-4 vote upheld Hastings’ nondiscrimination policy, which requires student organizations to open their membership to all students in order to receive official recognition and accompanying benefits.
The society didn’t qualify for official recognition under that policy because it excludes members who are nonbelievers or engage in “unrepentant homosexual conduct.”
But the Supreme Court left open a second claim in which the society contended Hastings unfairly enforced the policy selectively by singling out the religious group for enforcement.
The court ordered the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in San Francisco to consider whether the group was entitled to pursue the selective enforcement claim.
In today’s ruling, a three-judge panel said the society couldn’t maintain that claim because it never clearly raised the argument in previous proceedings before the appeals court.
“The Christian Legal Society never claimed that Hastings’ policy was selectively enforced,” the panel said.
Nonrecognized student groups at Hastings can meet in rooms at the school and post notices on a school bulletin board.
But only officially recognized groups can announce meetings in a weekly school newsletter, use Hastings in their name, recruit members at an annual school fair, and apply to the student government for a small amount of event financing from a students fees fund.
The society, based in Springfield, Va., filed the lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco in 2004. It appealed to the Supreme Court after a trial judge in 2006 and the 9th Circuit in 2009 ruled in Hastings’ favor.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News
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