Thursday, September 19, 2013

Student Organizations: Christian Legal Society

I will next cover students organizations I would describe as affinity groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs and values.  I will first profile the Christian Legal Society. 

The Appalachian School of Law Christian Legal Society

Students founded this organization in 2003.  

Membership Requirements

All members and officers must agree to and affirm a Statement of Faith and Sexual Morality Standards that provides:
Trusting in Jesus my Savior, I believe in:
  • One God, eternally existent in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
  • The Deity of our Lord, Jesus Christ, God's only Son conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary; His vicarious death for our sins through which we receive eternal life; His bodily resurrection and personal return.
  • The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration.
  • The Bible as the Inspired Word of God. 

The Constitution of the society also provides:
All members and officers must endeavor to live their lives in a manner consistent with the Statement of Faith and must exemplify the highest standards of morality as set forth in Scripture, abstaining from "acts of the sinful natture," including those in Galatians 5:19-21; Exodus 20; Matthew 15:19; Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; this does not, however, bar all who have ever committed such sins from being a member or holding office, so long as they have since repented of these sins (1 Corinthians 6:11, Ephesians 2:1-9, Titus 3:3-7) and so manifested "the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5: 22-23) that their profession of Christian faith is credible.  
Article 4.1 of the Constitution makes membership open only to students at the law school who agree with the mission and purposes of the society; "who sign, affirm, and endeavor to live their lives in a manner consistent with the Statement of Faith;" and who submit a membership application that is accepted by the national Christian Legal Society, an Illinois non-profit corporation with offices in Washington, D.C.

Student membership costs $24 per year in 2013.

Mission and Purposes

The Mission of the chapter is "to maintain a vibrant Christian law student fellowship on the School's campus which enables its members, individually, and as a group, to love the Lord with their whole beings --  hearts, souls, and minds -- and to love their neighbors as themselves.  (Matthew 22:37-40.)"
In striving to accomplish this mission, the Chapter shall be guided by the ten purposes set forth in Art. I of the national CLS by laws and by the LSM Threefold Ministry Model, which entails three interrelated activities to be carried out by the Chapter:
  • Cultivating spiritual growth through communal prayer, fellowship, and worship; learning to share one's faith; and devotional study of the Bible and classic Christian works.
  • Showing the love of Christ to the campus community and the community at large by proclaiming the gospel in word and in deed, such as through a life of integrity and charitable good works; as Martin Luther put it, "to be as Christ to our neighbor."
  • Addressing the question, "What does it mean to be a Christian in law?" that is, learning to submit every aspect of one's calling in the legal profession to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
The national CLS requires an annual report submitting specimens of literature, notices, and other items published by the student chapter which identify the national corporation or which otherwise use the marks owned by the national corporation.

Events and Activities

The CLS sponsors regular Bible studies.  As part of its service to the community, it provides a Good Friday breakfast for all students.  One day during final exams, it also provides lunch for all students .

This year, the group will host Allison O'Quinn, a local Christian lawyer, who will speak on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 4:30 p.m. on the topic of Law and Righteousness.  

Perspective on Non-Discrimination Policies of a University or College

When students first sought to organize this group, the national CLS provided a notice called: An Important Word of Caution!  It provides:
Be certain of ALL the terms and conditions your school places on student groups seeking registered or recognized status before you begin the process of registering your chapter with the school.  Many universities and colleges require student groups to adhere to a nondiscrimination policy as a condition of becoming a recognized or registered student organization.  An increasing number of these nondiscrimination policies require student organizations to agree not to take religion, creed, or sexual orientation into account when selecting leaders and members. Because such agreement is inconsistent with the U.S. Constitutional protections of religious freedom as well as the CLS Constitution for Law School Chapters, you should not agree to a nondiscriminatory policy more expansive that the Equal Opportunity and Equal Access statement contained in Paragraph 4.1 of the form constitution for CLS Student Chapters found in Appendix 2.  If your school imposes such a non-discriminatory requirement upon students groups, IMMEDIATELY contact the Law Student Ministry offices  . . . and we will put you in touch with the CLS's Center for Law and Religious Freedom (see page 30 about how to resolve difficulties with the university).
(Emphasis in original.)

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court held that the CLS chapter at Hastings College of Law had to adhere to the school's non-discrimination policy. You can read a summary of that case here.  A copy of the decision appears here.

Section 4.I. of the Appalachian School of Law Student Bar Association By-Laws provide:
A student organization may establish criteria for membership provided that the organization's policies are consistent with the anti-discrimination policy of the Appalachian School of Law. Specifically, no officially recognized student organization may establish membership policies that discriminate on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or national and ethnic origin.
I looked today for a copy of ASL's non-discrimination policy, but I did not find it.  I'll update this posting when I do.  I know one exists, but I do not know its specific language.

Based on these recent developments, the organization may want to review its Constitution to consider whether its membership policies adhere to established law.

Photo features Dove Powers, current CLS President. 

Associate Professor Alan Oxford serves as the faculty advisor of the CLS.  

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