OU Joins Call to Supreme Court to Protect Religious Freedoms of Campus Student Groups

Posted on February 4, 2010 In Press Releases

February 4, 2010
Contact: Nathan J. Diament


Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court calling upon the justices to uphold the religious freedoms of student groups on campus.

The brief was filed in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The brief was drafted by the UOJCA’s Nathan Diament and attorneys Mark Harris, Michael Lazaroff and Sigal Mandelker of the Proskauer Rose law firm.

The case stems from the decision by the University of California’s Hastings Law School to deny accreditation to the law school’s local chapter of the Christian Legal Society (“CLS”) as a recognized student group and thus denying CLS access to school meeting rooms and other support available to other recognized student groups. The basis Hastings offered for denying CLS this recognition was its policy that law students who wished to be members of the group must subscribe to a statement of faith which, among other points, includes a rejection of “sinful acts” including sex outside of marriage. Hastings asserted that this policy violated the school’s anti-discrimination policy. CLS sued the law school for its denial and the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the school. (Of note, an analogous case of denial to CLS was brought to another Court of Appeals which ruled for CLS.)

In its brief to the Court, the Orthodox Union supports CLS. The Orthodox Union argues that Hastings Law School’s denial of recognition to CLS is a violation of its students’ First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion which guarantees the students the right to religious expression without state interference. The denial is also a violation of CLS’ freedom of association and is viewpoint based discrimination by the state school.

The brief noted the Orthodox Union’s particular interest in this case by virtue of its sponsorship of the National Conference of Synagogue Youth (“NCSY”) and the Jewish Student Union – which run activities for Jewish teens in public schools among other settings.

Nathan Diament, public policy director of the Orthodox Union stated:

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations strongly supports CLS’’ effort through this case to vindicate religious liberty. If the First Amendment guarantees anything, it guarantees the right of people of faith to associate and join in expressions of faith without state interference and without the state placing a burden on their religious activities.

If the Supreme Court leaves in place the power of state universities or other government entities to condition a religious group’s rights on the state’s preferred beliefs then, in Jewish community terms, our programs could be forced open to adherents of Jews for Jesus or others antithetical to our values. We pray the Supreme Court will vindicate religious freedom in this case.

The full text of the Orthodox Union’s brief is available here.