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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, aka Hastings Christian Fellowship
Leo P. Martinez, et al.
(for the petitioner)
(for the respondents)
Facts of the Case 

The Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of Law (CLS) filed suit against the university in a California federal district for violating its First Amendment rights. The Hastings College of Law failed to recognize the CLS as an official student organization because state law requires all registered student organizations to allow "any student to participate, become a member, or seek leadership positions, regardless of their status or beliefs." In contrast, CLS requires its members to attest in writing that "I believe in: The Bible as the inspired word of God; The Deity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, God's son; The vicarious death of Jesus Christ for our sins; His bodily resurrection and His personal return; The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration; [and] Jesus Christ, God's son, is Lord of my life." The district court dismissed the case.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that the school's conditions on recognizing student groups were viewpoint neutral and reasonable. Therefore, the school's conditions did not violate the CLS's First Amendment rights.

Read the Briefs for this Case

Did the Ninth Circuit err when its holding runs directly contrary to the Seventh Circuit's 2006 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Walker?

Decision: 5 votes for Martinez, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: U.S. Constitution, Amendment 1, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association

No. The Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit, holding that the college's all-comers policy is a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral condition on access to the student organization forum; and, therefore, did not transgress First Amendment limitations. With Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg writing for the majority, the Court reasoned that the same considerations that have led the Court to apply a less restrictive level of scrutiny to speech in limited public forums, counseled the same result in this case. The Court further reasoned that, considering this constitutional inquiry occurs in the education context, Hasting's all-comers policy is reasonable and viewpoint neutral.

Justice John Paul Stevens, wrote separately, concurring. He agreed with the Court's holding and answered an argument raised by CLS that Hasting's Nondiscrimination Policy would be "plainly unconstitutional" if addressed in this case. He disagreed with CLS noting that while the First Amendment may protect CLS' discriminatory practices off campus, it does not require a public university to validate or support such practices. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy also concurred. He noted that to be effective, a limited forum will exclude some speakers based on their affiliation, as occurred in this case. Justice Samuel A. Alito, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, dissented. He critiqued the majority for expounding the principle: "no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning." He argued that the majority arms public institutions with a "handy weapon" for suppressing the speech of unpopular groups.

Cite this Page
CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY CHAPTER v. MARTINEZ. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <>.
CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY CHAPTER v. MARTINEZ, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 25, 2015).
"CHRISTIAN LEGAL SOCIETY CHAPTER v. MARTINEZ," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015,