Some Thoughts On Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

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The Christian blogosphere is abuzz this week, following the Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Click here to read the Associated Press article about it.

In a nutshell, CLS v. Martinez is about this:

  • University of California’s Hastings College of the Law requires that recognized campus groups must not exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation. If a campus group does not abide by this guideline, the school will not grant them official status. Thus the group will not be eligible for benefits such as student-government-allotted funding or meeting space on campus. 
  • Hastings’ chapter of the Christian Legal Society does not discriminate when it comes to membership in its group—any Hastings student is allowed to join and participate. It does, however, require its leaders to sign a statement of faith and moral conduct. Specifically, “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” would be considered inconsistent with its statement of faith, and would preclude someone who practiced and endorsed such a view from becoming a leader in its organization. Because they discriminated on the basis of belief, their official status was revoked.

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The finer points of this case have already been covered more eloquently by others, so I won’t belabor them here. If you would like to read more, I recommend my friend Scott Crocker’s post, “The Supreme Court, Campus Ministry and Discrimination”, and Southern Baptist leader Dr. Albert Mohler’s post, “Can Christian Organizations Remain Christian in a “Tolerant” Age?”.

But I have some thoughts as well.

On one hand, I agree with Supreme Court Justice Scalia: To not allow student groups to discriminate on the basis of belief is profoundly illogical, as well as impractical. As I have spoken of and written about before, it is impossible to enforce “tolerance.” True “tolerance” must tolerate even intolerance, or in itself it becomes intolerant. It’s like a dog chasing its tail.

On the other hand, I have this to say to my fellow Christ-followers and campus ministers:

It is time for us to acknowledge that the Christian worldview has enjoyed a favored status in our nation for centuries. I happen to prescribe to the Christian worldview and believe wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ brings the only true, lasting hope for our country, and the entire world. I have enjoyed living in a country whose default mindset has been consistent with my beliefs.

But that time is over. And I’m not sure that’s really a bad thing.

When a country aligns itself with biblical ideals and principles, things tend to go well for the government, the country. But over time, this “favored worldview status” actually becomes detrimental to the Church itself. Eventually, we Christians slip into complacency and sometimes develop a sense of entitlement. “What!?” we cry, “The government always endorsed our belief system before! They owe it to us to continue to protect our beliefs!”

The problem is, the government doesn’t owe the Church its endorsement. It’s not in the Constitution. It’s not even in the Bible. Yes, the U.S. government guarantees us the right to assemble, and the right to establish ourselves. But nowhere is the government mandated to distribute money to us or offer us a platform on public-funded property.

As Scott Crocker articulated in his post, we need to remember that God does not need the U.S. government to expand His Kingdom and accomplish His purposes. As a matter of fact, the Church tends to become more holy, and gospel tends to spread more quickly, in direct proportion to the amount of governmental persecution the Church receives.*

It’s time for us, the American Church, to stop looking to the government to be our Savior and Advocate. Those roles have already been filled by Jesus Christ, and He is more than able.

*Just to clarify…I wouldn’t describe the American Church as persecuted at this point in history. Being made uncomfortable, maybe. But again, I would argue this is a good thing.

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