Flight attendant Charlene Carter sued her employer and her union alleging, among other things, that they discriminated against her on the basis of religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). In July 2022, a jury awarded Ms. Carter $5.1 million. This sum appears to be consistent with
On October 31, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases: Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina and Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard. The Court’s resulting decision now stands to determine the fate of race-conscious admissions in higher education.
Brief Factual Background
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution includes both an establishment clause and a free exercise clause. Of these, the free exercise clause is often invoked in the employment context to challenge employer policies that, while facially neutral and generally applicable, incidentally burden religion.
In Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v.
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are typically cited as the major religions of the world, although there are many others that have tens of millions of adherents or more. The United States has no official established religion, and instead since its founding has guaranteed its citizens the right to free choice and exercise of…
The holidays are a festive time to be shared with family, friends and even co-workers. Many employers also join in the celebrations by allowing employees to put up decorations and exchange gifts. Employers also like to host holiday parties filled…
A case pending in San Diego Superior Court questions the constitutionality of an Ashtanga yoga program provided to students at the Encinitas Union School District. In Sedlock et al v. Baird et al, parents Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock allege that the Ashtanga yoga program is inherently and pervasively religious, having roots in western metaphysical…
The holidays are a festive time to be shared with family, friends and even coworkers. Many employers also join in the celebrations by allowing employees to put up decorations and exchange gifts. Employers also like to host holiday parties filled with food, music and alcohol. However, these types of activities may create legal liability for…
Thanks to movies like Animal House and PCU, the word “fraternity” conjures up images of University sanctioned bastions of partying and pranks. The classic Hollywood formula often involves comedic attempts to win back University approval after the fraternity’s antics raise the ire of administration. What John Landis probably didn’t envision is a University’s refusal to sancion a sorority or fraternity because they require members to devote themselves to traditional Christian values, but that is exactly the story that unfolded at San Diego State University recently.
Alpha Delta Chi and Alpha Gamma Omega, a Christian sorority and fraternity, required its members to have “personal acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,” “active participation in Christian service,” and “regular attendance or membership in an evangelical church.” Officers of the sorority and fraternity were required to profess beliefs and practices “consistent with orthodox Christian beliefs.”
The sorority and fraternity sought official recognition from the University which would bring with it numerous benefits including University funding, use of the University’s name and logo, access to campus office space and meeting rooms, free publicity in school publications, and participation in various special University events. Officially recognized fraternities and sororities can be granted access to recruitment fairs, leadership conferences, and social activities.
The sorority and fraternity applied for recognition on numerous occasions, but were denied each time because they required their members and officers to profess a specific religious belief. These membership requirements conflicted with San Diego State’s nondiscrimination policy which the University requires all officially recognized student organizations to include in their bylaws. That policy states that on-campus status will not be granted to any student organization that restricts membership or eligibility to hold officer positions on the basis of race, sex, color, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other protected category. The University’s policy reflects the California State University system’s Non-Discrimination Regulation.
Although the sorority and fraternity were denied official recognition, they are still free to hand out flyers and post signs to recruit new members in areas open to all groups, recognized or not, such as the “free speech steps” of the student union and the wall next to the University’s bookstore. They could also use the University’s rooms for meetings and events, but not for free or at reduced prices, as officially recognized groups may do.
The sorority and fraternity brought suit against the University alleging the non-discrimination policy for sanctioned student groups infringed on their rights of Free Speech and Association, Free Religious Exercise and Equal Protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. After the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the University on all counts, the sorority and fraternity appealed.
Last year, in Christian Legal Society Chapter of the Univ. of Calif. Hastings College of Law v. Martinez, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a public University does not violate the Constitution when it conditions official recognition of a student group, and the attendant use of school funds and facilities, on the organization’s agreement to open eligibility for membership and leadership to all students. This was referred to as an “all-comers policy” because it prohibited all membership restrictions. The Supreme Court, however, expressly declined to address whether this would extend to a narrower policy that merely holds that membership and leadership cannot be restricted to students of specified races, genders, religion, or other protected classification. Continue Reading University’s Nondiscrimination Policy Does Not Violate Religiously-Exclusive Student Organizations’ Freedom Of Speech Or Association, Free Religious Exercise, Or Equal Protection