Christian Legal Society

Last updated
Christian Legal Society
TypeChristian law society and legal network of lawyers and law students
Headquarters Springfield, Virginia, United States
Attorneys, Judges, Professors, Law Students, others
Charlie Oellermann
(President & Chairman of the Board)
  • David Nammo
  • (Executive Director & CEO)
  • Brian Patlen
  • (COO)
  • Peter Smith
  • (CFO)

Christian Legal Society (CLS) is a non-profit, non-denominational organization of Christian lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students and friends whose members profess to follow the "commandment of Jesus" to "seek justice with the love of God." [2] through four distinct and complimentary ministries:


1. Attorney Ministries: the fellowship and network of Christian attorneys who are members of CLS and gather in volunteer-run attorney chapters across the country.

2. Law Student Ministries: the ministry and network of Christian fellowships on law school campuses.

3. Center for Law & Religious Freedom: the advocacy arm of the Christian Legal Society, working to protect and defend religious freedom and the sanctity of human life through submitting amicus curiae legal briefs in cases, representing parties, and legislative work.

4. Christian Legal Aid: the ministry of CLS to those below the poverty line, through a network of independent Christian Legal Aid clinics across the country.

CLS publishes a bi-annual magazine called The Christian Lawyer, a scholarly journal called The Journal of Christian Legal Thought, CLS Bible Studies, and CLS E-Devotionals. Its former publications include the Quarterly, The Defender, and the Religious Freedom Reporter (all of which can be obtained at HeinOnline ).

CLS receives no government support for any of its programs or ministries and is supported by dues, donations and gifts.

The Christian Legal Society holds an annual convention in the United States and various regional conferences. [3]


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 Brinks, and Elmer Johnson) who had met at a convention of the American Bar Association in 1959 to pray together.

Since its founding, it has grown to include over 50 attorney chapters, 120 law school chapters, networking or starting over 60 Christian legal aid clinics serving 130 communities, through four unincorporated ministry divisions: Attorney Ministries, Law Student Ministries, the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, and Christian Legal Aid.

In the 80s and 90s, CLS formed and managed a Christian Conciliation ministry, which later became Peacemaker Ministries and the Institute for Christian Conciliation.


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

Membership in the Christian Legal Society is open to all who believe in and sign CLS’ Statement of Faith. [4]


Since its founding in 1961, CLS’ nine organizational objectives, as set forth in its amended not-for-profit articles of incorporation, have been: [5]

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. [6] The University of Florida, however, refused to recognize BYX. [7] The university had refused to recognize the chapter as a registered student organization because the fraternity accepts only men and would not recognize the chapter as a social fraternity because the fraternity accepts only Christians. [8]

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. 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. [9] [10] [11]

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. [12] 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. [13] [14] [15]

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  1. Cf. CLS Staff Roster - CLS website
  2. Cf. Luke 11:42; Matthew 23:23.
  3. "CLS Events - Christian Legal Society - Christian Legal Society". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  5. CLS, "Vision of CLS" - CLS website
  6. University of Florida Chapter. "Upsilon Chapter Archived October 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine " Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  7. The Alligator. "Christian fraternity suing UF, seeking official recognition." Retrieved on June 24, 2008.
  8. The Gainesville Sun. "All-male Christian fraternity sues UF." Retrieved on November 4, 2007.
  9. 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
  10. Zahav, Zahara, "Court orders UF to recognize Christian fraternity", The Alligator, July 31, 2008
  11. Schmidt, Peter, "Constitutional Rights Clash in Battle of Law School and Christian Group", The Chronicle of Higher Education , March 28, 2010
  12. B. Egelko Hastings defends anti-bias policy at high court
  13. "Oral argument transcript in CLS v. Martinez" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-02-01. Retrieved 2017-06-27.
  14. Schmidt, Peter, "Ruling Is Unlikely to End Litigation Over Policies on Student Groups", The Chronicle of Higher Education , June 30, 2010