NY law school rejects Christian student group

February 2, 2007

Pace Law School in White Plains, New York, is being asked to reverse its decision to deny recognition to a campus Christian student group.

According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the school refuses to give the Christian Legal Society chapter official status, even after “remarkable concessions” by the faith-based group.

The Student Bar Association at Pace Law School in White Plains has denied official recognition to the campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society. The move comes despite the fact that the Christian group added “sexual orientation” to a non-discrimination clause in its constitution and opened membership to non-Christians.

Greg Lukianoff is president of the academic freedom and individual rights watchdog group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He says his organization is calling on Pace officials to recognize the Christian Legal Society, which has, he notes, made “remarkable concessions” in order to conform to the school’s non-discrimination policies.

Lukianoff says the Pace Student Bar Association also denied recognition to the Muslim Law Students’ Association, presumably for similar reasons. But freedom of association “means precious little,” the students’ rights advocate asserts, if a group is not allowed to exclude people who do not share its beliefs.

“That applies with equal force to the College Republicans, to the College Democrats, to the College Greens,” Lukianoff contends.

“None of these groups have to admit people who don’t believe in the message of the group,” he points out. And why, he asks, would anyone want to join a group with whose message he or she is not in agreement anyway?

Despite the illogic of this move, Lukianoff observes, Pace’s Student Bar Association banned the campus chapter of the Christian Legal Society, claiming the group’s beliefs were too “narrow.” He says this shows the law school has abandoned its commitment to freedom of expression as well as freedom of association.

“Now, this is quite remarkable,” the FIRE spokesman contends. “By any argument, any ideological group can have views that some other group might consider narrow,” he says ; “but it is not the right or privilege of a student association to evaluate the sincerity, importance, or breadth of religious beliefs to decide if they deem them appropriate.”

The dean of Pace Law School said Monday that he disagreed with the Student Bar Association’s decision. Nevertheless, he left the ban on the Christian Legal Society in place, pending review by the school’s general counsel.
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