CLS submitted an application to become an RSO. Hastings rejected the application because CLS did not comply with the all-comers policy; it barred students from membership based on religion and sexual orientation. CLS sued, arguing that the policy violated its First Amendment rights.
The First Amendment permits some restrictions on access to a limited public forum, as long as the access barrier is reasonable and viewpoint neutral.
Hastings has an all-comers policy for registered student organizations (RSOs). RSOs have certain benefits, including financial assistance and access to facilities. The all-comers policy mandates that RSOs accept all students to participate, be a member, or seek leadership positions in their groups.
CLS submitted an application to become an RSO. Hastings rejected the application because CLS did not comply with the all-comers policy; it barred students from membership based on religion and sexual orientation.
Hastings refused CLS’s request for an exemption, and CLS refused to alter its bylaws.
Can a public law school condition its official recognition of a student group–and its use of school funds and facilities–on the organization’s agreement to open eligibility for membership and leadership to all students?
Yes, a public law school can have such a policy.
Justice Alito (with Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas)
Hastings has only denied RSO status to one group: CLS. The all-comers policy is a pretext for discriminating against unpopular viewpoints.
The Court has permitted restrictions on access to a limited public forum, like an RSO program, as long as the access barrier is reasonable and viewpoint neutral.
The Court has also permitted restrictions on associations only if they serve compelling state interests that are unrelated to the suppression of ideas, and that the restrictions are the least restrictive means.
Hastings’ RSO policy is reasonable because it ensures that no student is forced to fund a group that would reject them as a member. It is also viewpoint neutral because all student groups have to accept all comers. It is also least restrictive because Hastings provided CLS with other services; it just did not provide them with funding and the RSO-specific communications.