This column originally appeared on the Townhall website on February 10, 2010.
The first round of briefs has now been filed in the pending religious liberty case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. This is shaping up to be a big case that everyone should focus on come April.
The case is about religious discrimination. The Christian Legal Society (CLS) requires that its campus leaders be … Christian. Seems like a no-brainer. But not to a modern liberal school like University of California at Hastings. UC denied CLS recognition because the school declared that excluding non-Christians from the leadership of this Christian organization amounted to discrimination in violation of school rules.
This is of course ludicrous. No one would deny that a black student association can limit its leadership to African-Americans, or a women’s group to women, or an Islamic group to Muslims.
CLS filed suit, where they lost on appeal before the Ninth Circuit federal court (no surprise there). Now it’s gone to the Supreme Court.
What’s truly noteworthy at this point is that CLS is now being represented by Michael McConnell, who is a former federal appeals judge, a top law professor at Stanford (and previously University of Chicago, before he was appointed to the Tenth Circuit appeals court). McConnell might be the single most-brilliant religious liberty scholar out there today. If anyone can put forward the right argument for this case, it’s McConnell.
Also interesting is that sixteen organizations joined an amicus brief involving former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, who is one of the most successful and capable Supreme Court lawyers alive.
Between McConnell and Clement, the A-Team is on the field for this case, fighting for religious liberty. This case was already worth watching just because of the issue. With this team, it’s definitely the biggest religious liberty case in five years.
It hasn’t been scheduled for argument yet, but will definitely be set for the third or fourth week in April, with a decision likely to come down in late June.