Monday, December 17, 2007

Another CLS Chapter Derecognized - This Time at The University of Montana School of Law

UPDATE Mon Dec. 17, 2007, 6:36 p.m. See also: the CLS v. U. Montana page on the CLS website with links to the press release, the complaint, and other material.

Over the past two decades CLS chapters have faced derecognition at approximately 17 Universities around the country on the basis that CLS's Statement of Faith requirement for its voting members and officers (it bears repeating for the umpteenth time that ANYONE is invited and welcome at CLS meetings and activities) violates a school nondiscrimination policy. In many cases the schools have argued that CLS commits religious discrimination. Increasingly however, schools are adopting "sexual orientation" nondiscrimination rules and claiming that because CLS interprets its Statement of Faith to include the belief that sexual conduct outside marriage (whether with someone of the same or opposite sex) is sinful, CLS discriminates on the basis of "sexual orientation."

In all but one of CLS's encounters with chapter derecognition CLS has succeeded - in or out of court - in regaining recognition for its chapter with its membership and leadership rules uncompromised. From settlement agreements in which the University altered its policies to accommodate CLS (Arizona State, Ohio State, etc.) to federal court decisions holding that applying such policies to religious organizations is unconstitutional (Southern Illinois University) to decisions on appeal by Student Bar panels that a religious organizations' faith requirements for membership and leadership are not properly termed "discrimination" at all (Idaho), CLS has been almost uniformly successful. The one exception is the University of California-Hastings College of Law where an appeal to the 9th Circuit is pending).

The University of Montana School of Law has decided to be #18. Although the Associated Students of the University of Montana, the main campus student association, has recognized CLS-UM, the law school will not. More properly, although the SBA originally recognized CLS earlier this year, with the SBA deciding that SBA nondiscrimination policies did not preclude CLS recognition, the SBA then effectively submitted CLS to a law school-wide popularity vote which CLS narrowly lost. In light of this, the SBA THEN decided that CLS-UM violated its nondiscrimination rules and derecognized the chapter.

We have filed a complaint in federal court in Missoula, Montana on behalf of CLS-UM and National CLS. The complaint is linked from the release linked above. Expect more here on this case in the weeks ahead.