Sparks continue to fly in a lawsuit leveled against the University of Montana by the Christian Legal Society (CLS), an organization of Christian law students. U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull ruled in favor of UM in late May, but CLS appealed that ruling June 18 in the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
CLS filed the original suit in December 2007 following a major tiff with the Student Bar Association (SBA) over the group's requirement that all voting members and officers refrain from extramarital sexual activity. The SBA and the UM School of Law derecognized CLS as a student group claiming it violated a sexual orientation discrimination clause by seeking to exclude homosexuals. The move cut CLS's access to funding through mandatory student fees.
According to CLS attorney Casey Mattox, Cebull ignored key arguments in the group's case by focusing on the sexual discrimination clause. During the suit CLS argued that revoking its recognition skewed allocation of student money toward student organizations with non-Christian beliefs.
"The idea is basically you're being forced to pay to support groups you disagree with," Mattox says, "so you have to fairly distribute the money."
UM continues to recognize CLS as a student organization, and Mattox considers that a vote of approval. He says CLS's stance on homosexuality has no bearing on the case.
"The issue is simply a belief about sex outside marriage," Mattox says. "And that applies whether it's a heterosexual relationship outside marriage or a homosexual relationship outside marriage."
However, the point of contention for those opposed to CLS is the group's traditional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Mattox explains that definition is part of the group's religious beliefs.
More than anything, CLS's appeal seems to hinge on the fact that some student groups are exclusionary by their very nature.
"There's nothing wrong with the College Democrats having Democrats as their officers and not having Republicans," Mattox says. "Everyone seems to understand that point, and it's simply no different here." The Cave:Advertising:02 Production Art:IndyLogoDingbat2002.tifB:'",,"")>