Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Christian Organizations on Campus

This is the second place I saw this story about a Christian Student group at the University of Montana Law School being denied recognition because it asked is members to sign a pledge that encouraged them to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage.
According to the suit, the Christian Legal Society encourages Christian law students to “grow in their faith as they learn the law, integrating their faith into their chosen profession” and seeks “to encourage all students to investigate the claims of Christ for themselves and to be a Christian voice on the School of Law campus.”

To “protect” the Christian message, the organization says it requires all voting members and leaders to agree with a “statement of faith,” including its interpretations that Christians should not engage in sexual activity outside the context of marriage between a man and a woman.

The students allege that UM's Student Bar Association granted their organization preliminary approval for both recognition and funding, but when the matter was up for final ratification, funding was denied because of e-mail objections by other students.

“In response, the next day the Student Bar Association Executive Board derecognized the chapter, stating the Christian Legal Society-University of Montana's Statement of Faith requirement and its interpretation to prohibit sexual relationships outside of marriage for its voting members and leaders violated the Student Bar Association nondiscrimination rule,” the lawsuit states.
The story goes on to say that the "discriminatory" matter is something of a gray area. But this also something of a personal matter as well.

I am assuming that the problem with the statement of faith is that it implies that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, not that sex outside of marriage is discouraged. But in reality both statements are a matter of free speech and association. The club has the right to make rules for entry into its membership. Now the issue is whether that Christian Legal Society is entitled to receive a share of student activity fees (mandatory payments). So the question is this, if student activity fees are mandatory (and they generally are) how can the Student Bar Association grant recognition and therefore fees to other groups that Christians might object to, say a Lambda Legal Society Chapter (gay rights) or a Muslim Law Student Association or anything else.

The problem with denying recognition to a group that has jumped through all the procedural hoops (which are assumed to be content neutral) is that you open yourself up to charges of hypocrisy and double standards. In the end, my bet is that the CLS will get its recognition and its funding.

On the hand, Darren, makes a really good point--make the groups fund themselves.

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