Lawyers with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) have been busy of late racking up important wins for the religious freedom of college campus clubs in Texas and the free speech rights of pro-life supporters in front of abortion clinics in California.
In Texas, ADF represents Ratio Christi, a Christian apologetics organization with student chapters on various university campuses across the country. As The Daily Citizen recently reported, ADF initiated a lawsuit on Ratio Christi’s behalf after the club was denied “official” status at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) because of the club’s requirement that the group’s leaders agree to live by the mission and values of the Christian organization.
The university based its denial of official status on those leadership requirements, saying they violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and many other categories. Apparently, agreeing to live by biblical principles was considered “discriminatory.”
As ADF pointed out in the lawsuit it filed against UHCL, the university allowed many other clubs to require their members and leaders to subscribe to the missions of their organizations, resulting in sororities for women, sports teams segregated by sex, and ethnic clubs and veterans groups with restrictive membership and/or leadership requirements that could be considered “discriminatory.” That disparity of treatment violated Ratio Christi’s constitutional rights, ADF alleged in the lawsuit.
And UHCL must have agreed, because ADF recently announced the university has now agreed to officially recognize Ratio Christi as a campus club. ADF legal counsel Caleb Dalton announced the good news in a press release, while explaining that the issues are not settled until UHCL changes its official policies.
“Today, Ratio Christi received the good news they deserve—as a result of our lawsuit, the University of Houston-Clear Lake has now fully recognized the Christian student organization as a registered club on campus, granting them equal treatment among their peer groups,” Dalton said. “We commend the university and its general counsel for taking quick action to correct this injustice.
“Now, the university must do the next right thing and rescind the unconstitutional policies that are still in place that were used to exclude Ratio Christi because it requires its leaders to agree with its values and mission. It’s natural and expected that a Christian organization would require its leaders to be Christian; the university allows other organizations to have similar, commonsense leadership requirements.”
Presumably, the lawsuit will stay in place for now until the university agrees to change its policies, but the recognition of Ratio Christi is a great first step.
The Texas case is Ratio Christi v. Khator.
ADF also announced a court victory in California involving the rights of peaceful pro-life sidewalk counselors attempting to talk to women entering an abortion clinic.
In October, a new law, SB 742, went into effect in California that made it unlawful to approach within 30 feet of a person or an occupied vehicle at a “vaccination site” for the purpose of harassment, intimidation or interfering with that person. It also prohibits the same behavior within 100 feet of the entrance to a “vaccination site.”
Ostensibly passed to prevent protestors from impeding people attempting to get a COVID-19 vaccination, it also served a secondary purpose of keeping peaceful sidewalk counselors from approaching women entering abortion clinics with information on alternatives to abortion. Many abortion facilities, in addition to performing abortions, offer vaccinations against sexually transmitted diseases.
ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of Right to Life of Central California (RTL) alleging that the law violates the free speech rights of RTL’s representatives. On October 30, a federal judge issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the enforcement of SB 742’s restriction on “harassment” against the pro-life group, which shares a parking lot and sidewalk with a Planned Parenthood facility next door. Another hearing will be scheduled shortly to consider whether the TRO should be extended.
“The court concludes that [Right to Life of Central California] is likely to show that SB 742 is not narrowly tailored to serve the state’s interest of ensuring access to vaccination sites. Thus, [Right to Life] has shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its First Amendment freedom of speech claim,” the court order stated.
ADF celebrated the victory in a press release.
“Free speech won the day not just for our client, Right to Life, but for every other speaker in California. We applaud the court’s decision to protect the First Amendment rights of every Californian, regardless of their viewpoint, and halt enforcement of this unconstitutional state law,” said ADF Senior Counsel Denise Harle. “The court rightly acknowledged SB 742’s double standard in restricting pro-life outreach while permitting other types of speech, such as picketing about a labor dispute. We are thankful Right to Life’s staff and volunteers can continue their critical mission of serving vulnerable women in the central California region with their free, life-giving services.”
The lawsuit is Right to Life of Central California v. Bonta.
Launched in 1994 by the leaders of various Christian ministries, including Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, ADF has become one of the preeminent legal organizations in the world for defending life, religious freedom and free speech. It has won 13 victories at the U.S. Supreme Court since 2011 on behalf of its clients, and been involved in hundreds more cases at all levels of the U.S. and international legal systems.
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