Cardozo Law Review de•novo

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In Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a sharply divided Supreme Court held that officials at a public institution might require a student religious group to admit all-comers from the student body, including those who disagree with its beliefs, as a condition of being a recognized student organization. Put another way, the Court declared that the government, through university officials, might force religious groups to choose between compromising their values and receiving benefits that other student groups receive as a matter of constitutional right.

While Christian Legal Society remains the controlling constitutional rule until explicitly overruled, there are significant limits on the decision. First, in many instances, state law—whether in the form a state constitutional provision or a state statue—protects the rights student religious organizations to exclude non-believers. In other words, state law may require the opposite result of Christian Legal Society. Second, a 2012 decision, Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, establishes that religious groups have a right of religious autonomy—absolute discretion to determine whom its leaders and, by extension, its members will be. This constitutional guarantee of religious autonomy is contrary to Christian Legal Society. Third, a 2013 decision, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc., revives and redefines the unconstitutional conditions doctrine—government may impose conditions that define the program, but may not impose conditions that reach outside the program—so that a religious group may not be forced to surrender its religious autonomy rights as condition of receiving recognition and funding. Each of these limits is explained in more detail.


Cardozo Law Review de·novo



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