‘Christian Legal Society v. Martinez’ and the Role of Exclusive Religious Organizations in Public Universities

By Matthew Hlinak.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In ‘Christian Legal Society v. Martinez’, the United Sates Supreme Court addressed the question of whether Hastings College of Law, a public institution, could deny recognition to a religious student organization that required its officers and voting members to hold certain religious viewpoints. Does the inclusive mission of a public university require or prohibit recognition of exclusive organizations expressing religious beliefs? Forty advocacy organizations of various stripes filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of either position, which suggests the significance of the issue. This case presented a unique challenge because the Court was forced to balance the students’ constitutional rights of free exercise of religion and of association against the university’s constitutional prohibitions against favoring a particular religious viewpoint or discriminating against other viewpoints or classes of individuals. Given this clash of conflicting constitutional interests, one can certainly sympathize with Justice Breyer, who wondered aloud at oral arguments, “What do I do with this case?” This paper will attempt to answer that question.

Keywords: Religious Freedom, Separation of Church and State, Constitutional Rights, Religion and Higher Education

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp.71-80. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 588.505KB).

Matthew Hlinak

Academic Coordinator and Lecturer, School of Continuing Studies, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL, USA

Matt Hlinak is an academic coordinator and lecturer at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Studies, where he teaches courses in law and English. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Kaplan and Ellis Universities. His teaching and research interests include law and literature, creative writing, business law, cultural studies, communications law, and professional communications. His works has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the Mayo Review, the Proceedings of the Midwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business, the Midwest Literary Magazine, and Review Americana. He lives in Chicago with his wife, Liz, and their six-month-old daughter, Madeleine.