Alpha Delta v. Reed

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 08-02-2011
  • Case #: 09-55299
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court, Circuit Judge Graber; concurrence by Circuit Judge Ripple
  • Full Text Opinion

A student group denied status at a public university does not violate freedom of speech or association if the reason is viewpoint-neutral. A triable issue of fact exists under the free exercise clause and equal protection clause when a public university does not comply with its own nondiscrimination policy.

Alpha Delta Chi and Alpha Gamma Omega (Alpha Delta) are two student groups at San Diego State University (the University); both require their members to be Christian. The University only allows student groups that follow the University’s nondiscrimination policy, requiring that groups be neutral toward race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. to obtain status. University groups with status receive funding university funding and the use of the university logo. Alpha Delta was denied student group recognition by the University and they sued in federal court for violation of their free speech, freedom of association, free exercise and equal protection rights under the Federal Constitution. The district court granted the University’s motion for summary judgment and Alpha Delta appealed to the Ninth Circuit. The Ninth Circuit found the University is a limited public forum that can restrict use of the forum so long as it is reasonable to the purpose of the forum and does not discriminate on viewpoint. The University’s nondiscrimination policy is reasonable because it seeks to promote diversity, and allows the two groups alternate means of expressing their message. The policy is viewpoint-neutral because its purpose is not to limit speech, but to impose a nondiscriminatory policy, and does not compel the groups to include members, but rather withholds the benefits of having status. As written, the nondiscrimination policy does not violate the Free Exercise Clause or the Equal Protection Clause. However, because the University could not give an explanation as to why some student groups were given student group status without abiding by the nondiscrimination policy, the Ninth Circuit reversed and remanded the issue to the district court. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, REMANDED.

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