The Christian Legal Society (CLS) chapter at the University of Montana School of Law (UM) exists to encourage Christian law students to grow in their faith and integrate it with their profession, to urge other students to investigate the claims of Christ, and to be a Christian voice on campus. To accomplish these goals, it requires its voting members and leaders to affirm basic Biblical doctrine and to live by those standards. While CLS welcomes all individuals to its meetings and events, voting members must sign a statement of faith showing that they hold certain beliefs common to both Protestants and Catholics. And they must agree to live by Biblical moral teachings, including the belief that all sexual conduct outside of a traditional marriage—including homosexual conduct—is immoral. In June 2007, CLS applied to the Student Bar Association (SBA) for recognition as an official student organization. SBA granted CLS temporary recognition and submitted CLS’s proposed budget to the student body for approval. Students and faculty objected to the fact that CLS was included in the budget because of its religious and moral standards, and the student body rejected its budget completely. After this, the SBA derecognized CLS, saying that its religious and moral standards violated the SBA’s policies against discrimination on the basis of “religion” and “sexual orientation.”
WIN - On December 14, 2007, the Christian Legal Society and the ADF Center for Academic Freedom filed suit on behalf of CLS against officials at UM for various First Amendment violations. In May 2009, the district court rendered a judgment against CLS and in favor of UM, finding that UM did not violate CLS’s First Amendment right to free association. The case was appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in June of 2009. In August 2011, the University agreed to several reforms to their student fund system, prompting ADF and CLS to withdraw their federal lawsuit.
The university recognized that every student and student group should have their student fees distributed in a manner that complies with the First Amendment and doesn’t favor certain views over others. This agreement brings important changes at UM to protect the constitutional rights of all students.
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