Facts of the Case
The University of Missouri at Kansas City, a state university, which routinely provided university facilities for meetings of registered student organizations, excluded from the facilities “Cornerstone”, a student group desiring to use them for religious worship and religious discussion. The exclusion was based on a university regulation prohibiting the use of buildings or grounds for purposes of religious worship or religious teaching. Several students who were members of Cornerstone brought suit against the university challenging the regulation in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, alleging that the university’s discrimination against religious activity and discussion violated their rights to free exercise of religion, equal protection, and freedom of speech under the
Did the refusal of the University of Missouri to accommodate voluntary student religious meetings violate Cornerstone members’ rights of equal access to a public forum protected by the Fourteenth Amendment?Did the refusal of the University of Missouri to accommodate Cornerstone’s religious meetings unconstitutionally abridge freedoms of speech, association, and exercise of religion?
Yes and yes. In an 8-1 decision written by Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., the Court held that the university’s policy violated Cornerstone members’ First Amendment rights. He reasoned that when the university opened its facilities to student meetings, it created a public forum for those student groups