USA (MNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court began oral arguments on The Christian Legal Socity v. Martinez yesterday, April 19. The verdict of this case will help determine the future of campus ministry, for better or for worse.
The case ensued after The Christian Legal Society (CLS) was de-recognized by the University of California Hastings College of Law. The de-recognition took place after CLS refused to continue a student's membership when he refused to adhere to the statement of faith that all CLS members sign when inducted.
"They take a position on members not only believing, but walking according to certain normal– if you will–Christian norms," explains Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which works closely with CLS on many campuses. "There was a student who was involved who chose not to live that lifestyle in terms of a Christian walk and still wanted to be part of the group."
The controversial case has accrued a wealth of attention from secular and Christian sources alike, and the final verdict will undoubtedly affect them both. If CLS loses the case, Hill says it may be harder to maintain campus ministries as legitimate campus groups.
"If you're a recognized student group, you get certain privileges such as access to first year students, you get access to buildings to hold your meetings–you're a full-fledged student group. If that is denied, other public universities may follow the lead and kick off groups like InterVarsity. We would then have to function from outside the university, which would make our work much more difficult," says Hill.
On the other hand, if the case is decided in favor of CLS, Hill says it has "great ramifications and provides a buttress for religious freedoms in the future." (For more information on the implications and the case in general, click here.)
At present, the Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court justices appear to be harshly divided on the case.
When it comes down to it, though, campus ministries are only asking for the same allowances made for secular clubs to be made for Christian ones.
"For InterVarsity, all we're asking for is a place in the public square," says Hill. "We just want to be like the Young Republican Club and the Sierra Club. That's all we're asking. And with this case, if it goes adversely, it would deny us just being a regular student group on campus because we're Christian and we live out our student beliefs."
This case, which will likely go on until sometime this summer, savors strongly of the type of adversity every campus ministry suffers in the U.S. Prayers are needed in order for the Gospel to continue moving forward on college campuses, unhindered.
"There's great gravity in this case. Pray that the Lord will sovereignly work through the nine justices and that the right decision will be made."