WASHINGTON D.C. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal from a Christian club that challenged a "nondiscrimination" policy at San Diego State University.
The high court's decision leaves a federal appeals court ruling stand that campus groups must not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or religion. As a result of the ruling, Alpha Delta Chi, a Christian sorority, and Alpha Gamma Omega, a Christian fraternity, must accept all studentsincluding atheists, adherents of other faiths, as well as gay, lesbian and transgender studentsif they wish to have access to the same privileges extended to secular clubs, such as publicity and meeting rooms.
"Public universities should encourage, not censor, the free exchange of ideas. But for now, the supposed marketplace of ideas at San Diego State University will remain a stronghold for censorship," said Alliance Defense Fund senior counsel David Cortman. "We wish the Supreme Court would have used this opportunity to make clear that the First Amendment protects the right of student groups to employ belief-based criteria in selecting their members and leaders."
The Christian clubs sued the university in 2005, saying a campus policy that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation infringed on their freedom of speech, religion and assembly. In 2009, a lower court tossed their case, prompting the federal appeal.
"Throughout the years of defending its policy, the university did not tell the Democratic club it must be led by a Republican, or the vegetarian club that it must be led by a meat-eater, but it did tell Christian groups that they must allow themselves to be led by atheists," Cortman said.
"Even its purported, 11th-hour policy change made at the doorstep of the Supreme Court continues to treat religious groups less favorably than many other student groups. When political conformity is placed ahead of the constitutionally protected rights of students, all students including students of faith suffer."
The case, Alpha Delta Chi-Delta Chapter v. Reed, is being sent back to the original court to consider that the school's nondiscrimination policy potentially discriminates against Christians.