The University of Montana School of Law and the Christian Legal Society have reached a settlement over the Society's lawsuit demanding that the Student Bar Association fund its programs. The university won't have to.
It's a victory for freedom of religion and preservation of a school system that does not promote any religious group.
You wouldn't think that by reading the Alliance Defense Fund's press release on the settlement. The anti-gay, anti-choice group acts as if the Society won. They most certainly did not.
In an interview with Montana Public Radio reporter Emilie Ritter, University of Montana attorney David Aronofsky says the Student Bar Association doesn't have to fund "exclusionary groups," and that the Christian Legal Society won't qualify for funding. Groups that are eligible "must be open in all respects to all law students at the University of Montana."
At issue is the group's requirement that members sign a statement of Christian faith and live according to that statement. According to the group, "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle," such as being gay or engaging in premarital sex is inconsistent with the statement of faith.
That drew the attention of the university, which refused to fund the schools' chapter of the Christian Legal Society's activities. The School of Law requires that all student groups be open to all students and has a nondiscrimination policy that says students "have the right to be free from discrimination, harassment, or intimidation based on actual or perceived ... age, sex, nationality, creed, religion, race, sexual orientation or other purely arbitrary criteria."
That viewpoint never changed.
Back in 2007, when the Christian Legal Society filed its suit, school administrators agreed to let the group use university facilities and to promote its activities through university sources.
And essentially that's all the group won in its settlement. That and a pledge from the university to be more open about funding decisions for student groups and to not make decisions about funding based on a group's viewpoint.