Christian Legal Society members sue University of Idaho over restricting First Amendment rights

by mcardinal

Megan Udinski, FISM News



Members of the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at the University of Idaho have sued the university for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments protecting religious freedom.

On April 1, three members of CLS attended a “moment of community” event praying for the LGBTQ community and demonstrating their condemnation of an anti-LGBTQ slur that had been put on a whiteboard on the campus in Boise. 

Dean Johanna Kalb sent an email promoting the event and explaining “…I expect and hope that our classrooms and hallways will be a place of robust discussion and debate…The foundation for all of these discussions is mutual respect and grace. Bullying is not a conservative or a liberal value, and I will do everything in my power to stop it.”

While at this event a female student approached the three men inquiring about the CLS’s position on a biblical view of marriage to which they offered a brief explanation that it is the only view of marriage which the bible supports. One of the men wrote a note offering to continue the conversation in a setting that would allow both of their positions to be discussed and heard.

The individual who had approached the three men reported to the American Bar Association the following week denouncing the actions of CLS at the event and even claiming one person told her to “go to h***.” 

After receiving no-contact orders by the university and not being given the opportunity to hear the complaints or defend themselves, the three students decided to sue the University. According to the lawsuit, the school deemed “their speech controversial” and “unpopular.” 

The three plaintiffs, Peter Perlot, Mark Miller and Ryan Alexander, are all law students at the University as well as professing Christians. They are seeking monetary, injunctive and declaratory relief. 

Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that has defended religious liberty and won cases even in the Supreme Court, is representing the three plaintiffs. 

The CLS chapter at the University of Idaho was approved in November 2021 when the dean of the law school had to intervene due to the hostility expressed towards CLS’s religious beliefs by the student government. During the process, one student claimed the organization’s beliefs “is an invalidation of someone’s very existence who is an LGBTQ person.”  However, according to the group’s Community Life Statement, the members “seek to respect the uniqueness of all people, including our differences in race, sex, ethnicity, and talents, for each bears God’s image.”

In a statement released Tuesday by ADF Legal Counsel, Michael Ross said, “Students of all religious and ideological stripes must be free to discuss and debate the important issues of our day, especially law students who are preparing for a career that requires civil dialogue among differing viewpoints.”

Additionally, Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer commented, “Today’s university students will be tomorrow’s leaders, judges, and school administrators, so it’s imperative that university officials model the First Amendment freedoms they are supposed to be teaching their students.”