Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

CLS v. Martinez: After Oral Argument


I know that I’ve been a one-note record during the run-up to CLS v. Martinez, but it is, after all, the most significant higher-education case to come before the Supreme Court in many years — with serious implications for free association on and off campus. Oral argument was Monday, and PBC readers have no doubt been waiting with baited breath to hear some news. How did it go? Will the First Amendment once again protect unpopular expression, or will college students face their first serious free-speech setback in the high court?

As the transcript reveals, the situation is extremely fluid. I always counsel clients not to read too much into oral-argument questions, and that admonition is worth repeating today. And as the good folks at SCOTUSblog note, it’s especially difficult to determine majority will in this case. Some justices (Ginsburg, certainly) seemed to favor the university on the merits, others seemed to favor CLS, and a third group had multiple questions about the fate of the factual record in the case.

In other words, all outcomes are still on the table. Those who wanted to read tea leaves will have to wait for the Court’s decision, due before the end of July. In the meantime, religious student groups at campuses across the country wait — in limbo — to see if they have a right to exist on campus without being forced to deny key aspects of their faith.


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