Two pending lawsuits against Cal State Long Beach and San Diego State could ultimately change the CSU’s non-discrimination policy.
In November 2005, two groups sued CSULB and San Diego State, challenging the non-discrimination policy based on three principles: religion, sexual orientation and marital status.
Jeremy Tedesco, litigation staff council for the ADF, is representing the Christian groups who are suing both CSUs.
The ADF works with hundreds of organization to defend religious freedom and the sanctity of human life, according to the organization’s mission statement.
The lawsuit is part of the ADF’s University Project, a nationwide effort to help Christian student groups that say they often face discrimination on campuses.
His clients include an organization called the Every Nation Campus Ministries, which has student groups both at San Diego State and CSU Long Beach; a fraternity called Alpha Gamma Omega; and a sorority called Alpha Delta Chi.
One group that may be affected if the Christian groups prevail in the lawsuits is the Christian Student Association, a group that was denied charter at CSU San Bernardino.
CSUSB officials alleged the group discriminated against homosexuals and non-Christians because it would not allow them to take leadership roles in the group.
The issues deal with the CSU’s non-discrimination policy.
Ryan Sorba, a senior psychology major from CSU San Bernardino, said he had no idea that his decision to exclude two words, “religion” and “sexual orientation” from his group’s non-discrimination policy would cause commotion, and denial of his group from being chartered.
“It’s pretty straightforward and common sense that Christians should lead Christian groups,” said Sorba, then president of the CSA.
Sorba said everyone is welcome to come to the meetings, however, he felt the leaders of the club should be people who follow the Christian belief.
“A Muslim or a homosexual, two people that don’t share our fundamental Christian beliefs, shouldn’t be leading the group,” he said.
Sorba said he is opposed to the CSU’s non-discrimination policy.
“They won’t allow us to have students sign a statement of faith to be in leadership positions, but they basically force everybody to sign a statement of acceptance of homosexuality,” Sorba said.
Sorba said the non-discrimination policy destroys his group’s intention, which is to try to produce messages that can serve as a freedom of speech.
“When you’re forced to allow other people in your group it dichotomizes your freedom of speech and makes it pointless because you can’t really get across any particular message,” Sorba said.
Sorba said even though his group is not being represented in the pending lawsuits, he knows that if the case does win in favor the other groups, CSA will automatically be chartered.
“We’re going to end up probably just waiting to see what happens to those cases because those cases will affect the entire Cal State system,” Sorba said.
The non-discrimination policy that Sorba is referring to applies to Title 5 of the California Code of Regulation, a code the Cal State school system must follow, which states that under no circumstances will a campus recognize any “fraternity, sorority, living group honor society, or other student organization which discriminates on the basis of race, religion, natural origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation or disability.”
CSUSB could not approve the group’s charter because their non-discrimination policy statement claimed certain people could not join the club, according to an e-mailed statement from Christine Hansen, director of student leadership and development in Student Affairs at CSUSB.
Hansen said they failed to comply with Title 5 of the regulation code.
A club may still exist freely but when they don’t abide by the non-discrimination policy then they can not be officially sanctioned by the CSU. This means they do not get special privileges such as receiving state funding, Hansen said in the e-mail.
Some Christian groups that disagree with the CSU’s policy are saying it denies Christians their right to the First Amendment.
The Alliance Defense Fund works with hundreds of organization to defend religious freedom and the sanctity of human life, according to their mission statement outlined on their website.
Tedesco said he is following through with the lawsuits but nothing major has been planned.
“It’s moving forward right now and being litigated,” he said.
He agrees that Christian groups should have the right to choose members or officials based on shared beliefs.
“The Christian groups are just trying to exercise the right that everybody else certainly enjoys on campus,” Tedesco added.
Chris Foreman, CSUN student and president of the United Campus Ministry, said he felt a person who does not share the same beliefs would find it difficult to take on a leadership position in any type of group.
“It’s like saying if I don’t believe in the Muslim faith but I still want to go join the Muslim group and try to take a position of leadership,” Foreman said. “I would obviously be turned away from that position.”
Foreman, a second-year marketing major, said his group welcomes non-Christian believers and anyone who is interested in learning how to become a leader.
“We don’t have any requirements for anybody in our organization,” he said.
Foreman said his group tries to reach out to people and doesn’t send anyone away.
A couple students on campus spoke in support that anyone regardless of their background or affiliation should not be turned away if they wish to take a leadership position in a group.
Alex Ezzati, senior kinesiology major, agrees that nobody should be judged if they want to join any group.
“Everyone should be accepted regardless of their religious beliefs, thoughts and social affiliation,” Ezzati said.
While the subject of religion still remains a debatable topic on campuses, some school officials continue to maintain a firm belief that discrimination on any level is not permissible.
Nia Guleyon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.