Campus ministry could be in danger

By April 15, 2010

USA (MNN) — On April 19, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court will intercede in a case that may determine the future of campus ministry.

The Christian Legal Society (CLS), a campus ministry to law students, is involved in a case with the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco. According to CLS, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez began when the college de-recognized the group for requiring its leaders to agree with their statement of faith.

CLS reports that they were never looking for any sort of funding throughout this process but only for university recognition, which would grant them the same access to services and tools that other campus groups are given. University recognition also allows a group to be more fully involved in student life.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (which works closely with CLS on law school campuses) says that in this particular case, two different circuits of the federal appeals court have resulted in opposite verdicts.

In July 2006, there was a CLS case over virtually this same issue with Southern Illinois University. In this Seventh Circuit, judges ordered the CLS chapter to be reinstated.

Yet in March 2009 in the Ninth Circuit, judges ruled that school officials of University of California Hastings College of Law had the right to deny the presence of a CLS chapter on campus.

With two obviously conflicting verdicts, the present case is now due to be heard by the Supreme Court.

Fred Potter, Executive Director of CLS says the implications of this case are wide.

"The CLS v. Martinez case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to impact materially the future trajectory of First Amendment religious and free speech liberties nationwide," says Potter.

InterVarsity has encountered similar situations in which universities have denied them formal presence on a campus for requiring student leaders to affirm InterVarsity's doctrine. One such case appeared in federal court in 2006 with the University of Wisconsin.

InterVarsity is very much aware of the effects this case could have on their own campus ministries. In a recent press release, InterVarsity explained why ministry to college students is so important, noting that not only do campus ministries have unprecedented access to students, but they are also able to focus solely on these students as they develop through their college years.

InterVarsity and other campus ministries have been Christ's conduits for change in the lives of millions of students, while also providing a safe place for believers to come for fellowship.

The decision made by the Supreme Court about Christian Legal Society v. Martinez will significantly impact the future of campus ministry; whether it is for better or for worse is yet to be determined.

Pray that justice would prevail so that students on all college campuses would have easy access to campus ministries and, ultimately, to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To learn more about this case, click here.

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