School, religious group settle lawsuit
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[May 23, 2007] CARBONDALE -- Southern Illinois University will again recognize a religious group whose student organization status had been revoked because its members must pledge to adhere to Christian beliefs.
Tuesday's announcement came 10 months after the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted an injunction re-establishing the Christian Legal Society's status while its lawsuit against the university proceeded.
As part of the settlement, the university said it will officially recognize the group and its membership and leadership policies. Southern Illinois also will establish a $10,000 scholarship fund that the society will administer.
"Every student group has the right to ensure that its leaders and members support its mission; religious student groups should be treated no differently," said Casey Mattox, litigation counsel for the society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom.
Messages left Tuesday with the university's general counsel were not immediately returned.
Christian Legal Society sued Southern Illinois in April 2005, claiming the school's decision violated its First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion.
The university had said the group's requirements of its members violated the school's affirmative action policy, as well as a board of trustees policy stating that student organizations must follow all "federal or state laws concerning nondiscrimination and equal opportunity."
Christian Legal Society, based in Springfield, Va., is a nationwide association of more than 3,400 Christian lawyers, law students, law professors and judges with chapters in more than 1,100 cities, according to its Web postings. The Southern Illinois chapter had fewer than 12 members, Mattox has said.
The group has won similar lawsuits against other schools but lost a suit in April last year against the University of California Hastings College of Law, which denied it recognition in 2004.
[Text copied from file received from AP Digital]
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