Christian Legal Society

Christian Legal Society
Christian Legal Society
Formation 1961
Type Christian law society and legal network of lawyers and law students
Headquarters Springfield, Virginia[1]
Membership attorneys, judges, law students, others
Official languages English
President Craig Shultz, President & Chairman of the Board[1]
Key people

Fred L. Potter, Executive Director & CEO
James A. Davids, past president
Peter Smith, Controller
Wallace L. Larson, Treasurer

Peter F. Rathbun (American Bible Society), President-elect[1]
Budget $2,456,420 Total Support and Revenue (2008)[2]
Staff approximately 10[3]

The Christian Legal Society (CLS) is a non-profit, non-denominational organization of Christian lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students whose members profess to follow the "commandment of Jesus" to "do justice with the love of God."[4]

The society has a legal arm, The Center for Law & Religious Freedom, for litigation purposes especially against restriction on legal rights of religious organizations. This arm also submits amicus curiae legal briefs in cases involving important religious freedom issues.[1]

CLS publications include The Christian Lawyer (quarterly), The Christian Lawyer Digest, CLS Bible Studies, CLS E-Devotionals (bi-weekly), and The Defender (publication of CLS' Center for Law and Religious Freedom).[1][5]

CLS receives no government support for any of its programs or ministries and is supported by the dues and support of its members.

The Christian Legal Society holds an annual convention in the United States.



The organization, which is based in the United States, was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1961 by four lawyers (Paul Bernard, Gerrit P. Groen, Henry Luke Banks, and Elmer Johnson) who had met at a convention of the American Bar Association in 1959 to pray together.[5]

Since its founding, it has grown to include 90 attorney chapters, 165 law school chapters, and four unincorporated ministry divisions.


CLS membership includes attorneys, judges, law students, and others who profess their commitment to the Faith. They are organized in more than 1100 cities into attorney chapters, law student chapters, and fellowships throughout the United States.[5]

Membership in the Christian Legal Society is open to all who believe in and sign CLS’ Statement of Faith.


Since its founding in 1961, CLS’ nine organizational objectives, as set forth in its amended not-for-profit articles of incorporation, have been[6]:

  • To proclaim Jesus as Lord through all that we do in the field of law and other disciplines;
  • To provide a means of society, fellowship and nurture among Christian lawyers;
  • To encourage Christian lawyers to view law as ministry;
  • To clarify and promote the concept of the Christian lawyer and to help Christian lawyers integrate their faith with their professional lives;
  • To mobilize, at the national and local levels, the resources needed to promote justice, religious liberty, the inalienable right to human life, and biblical conflict reconciliation
  • To encourage, disciple and aid Christian students in preparing for the legal profession;
  • To provide a forum for the discussion of problems and opportunities relating to Christianity and the law;
  • To cooperate with bar associations and other organizations in asserting and maintaining high standards of legal ethics; and,
  • To encourage lawyers to furnish legal services to the poor and needy, and grant special consideration to the legal needs of churches and other charitable organizations.

Important legal cases

University of Florida (2007)

On March 16, 2007, the Upsilon Chapter at the University of Florida was officially recognized by the Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) national board.[7] The University of Florida however, refused to recognize BYX.[8] The university had refused to recognize the chapter as a "Registered Student Organization" because the fraternity only accepts men, and would not recognize the chapter as a "Social Fraternity" because the fraternity only accepts Christians.[9]

On July 10, 2007, the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom and the Christian Legal Society filed suit (Beta Upsilon Chi Upsilon Chapter v. Machen, 586 F.3d 908, 911-912 (11th Cir. 2009)) on behalf of BYX against various officials from the University of Florida for various constitutional violations including unlawful discrimination.[10] During the course of the proceedings, the 11th Circuit Court (United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on appeal from the Northern District of Florida, Leon County) ordered that the chapter be recognized pending the disposition of the appeal. The case was ultimately dismissed as moot when the university amended its policies to permit the registration of the chapter.[11][12][13]

University of California, Hastings College of the Law (2010)

Their case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez reached the Supreme Court of the United States in 2010.[14] It was argued on April 19, 2010 and decided June 28, 2010 against the CLS by a vote of 5-4. The court upheld, against a First Amendment challenge, the policy of the University of California, Hastings College of the Law governing official recognition of student groups, which required the groups to accept all students regardless of their status or beliefs in order to obtain recognition.[15][16][17]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cf. CLS website
  2. ^ "2008 Consolidated Financial Statement", Moran & Co., Independent Auditors, Manassas, Virginia, July 15, 2009
  3. ^ Cf. CLS Staff Roster - CLS website
  4. ^ Cf. Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:23.
  5. ^ a b c People For the American Way, "Article: The Christian Legal Society", Right Wing Watch website
  6. ^ CLS, "Vision of CLS" - CLS website (archived 2007)
  7. ^ University of Florida Chapter. "Upsilon Chapter" Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  8. ^ The Alligator. "Christian fraternity suing UF, seeking official recognition." Retrieved on June 24, 2008.
  9. ^ The Gainsville Sun. "All-male Christian fraternity sues UF." Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  10. ^ "Brave New Schools: Christian group locked out of university Lawsuit alleges discrimination against support group for believers", WorldNetDaily, July 14, 2007
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Beta Upsilon Chi Upsilon Chapter at the University of Florida v. J. Bernard Machen, in his official capacity as President of the University of Florida, Case Number: 08-13332, United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on appeal from the Northern District of Florida (Leon County), 10-27-2009
  13. ^ Zahav, Zahara, "Court orders UF to recognize Christian fraternity", The Alligator, July 31, 2008
  14. ^ Schmidt, Peter, "Constitutional Rights Clash in Battle of Law School and Christian Group", The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 28, 2010
  15. ^ B. Egelko Hastings defends anti-bias policy at high court
  16. ^ Oral argument transcript in CLS v. Martinez
  17. ^ Schmidt, Peter, "Ruling Is Unlikely to End Litigation Over Policies on Student Groups", The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 30, 2010

External links