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University's Denial of Recognition to Christian Student Organization Affirmed

By FindLaw Staff on June 28, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Christian Legal Soc. v. Martinez, No. 08-1371, involved an action against Hastings College of Law, a public law school, alleging that Hastings' refusal to grant a Christian group "Registered Student Organization" status violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion.  The Court affirmed summary judgment for defendant, holding that 1) the Court considered only whether a public institution's conditioning access to a student organization forum on compliance with an all-comers policy violated the Constitution; and 2) the all-comers policy was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the RSO forum.

As the Court wrote:  "In a series of decisions, this Court has emphasized that the First Amendment generally precludes public universities from denying student organizations access to school sponsored forums because of the groups' viewpoints. See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819 (1995); Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U. S. 263 (1981); Healy v. James, 408 U. S. 169 (1972). This case concerns a novel question regarding student activities at public universities: May a public law school condition its official recognition of a student group--and the attendant use of school funds and facilities--on the organization's agreement to open eligibility for membership and leadership to all students?"

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