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I’m glad you brought up this soon-to-be-argued controversy.
Americans United has also joined in on this case, filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of University of California, Hastings College of Law for their commitment to stand up against discrimination.
The case was originally brought by the Christian Legal Society (CLS) after the law school denied funding and official recognition to the organization. UC-Hastings requires that student groups remain open to all students in order to receive university funding and recognition. CLS refuses to abide by that policy and requires all of its members to sign an evangelical statement of faith, while barring membership to students who engage in “unrepentant homosexual conduct.”
In 2004, the school told the society it could not make an exception to its discrimination policy, but that “if CLS wishes to form independent of Hastings, [the university] would be pleased to provide the organization the use of Hastings facilities for its meetings and activities.”
As you can see, the school didn’t single out CLS for its beliefs, but rather, asked that the group abide by the same rules that all groups on campus must and do follow.
UC-Hastings seems more than fair in its decision. After all, if the
school gave CLS an exemption from following the non-discrimination
policy, wouldn’t that be extending a special privilege to this
particular religious group that no other student organization has?
It seems, however, that “special privileges” for certain religious
organizations is the trend these days. This case is not, as you
claimed, about protecting “the constitutional rights of religious
groups to set membership and leadership criteria according to the
dictates of their religious beliefs.” Those rights are already
protected. Rather, both you and I know at the heart of this case is the
issue of public funding of faith-based groups. CLS, like many other
faith-based groups, wants to take public funds and be able to
discriminate and proselytize, too.
That’s what you would like to see happen. You argue that
non-discrimination policies only apply to the government, which cannot
turn around and impose those same policies on private groups like CLS.
I beg to differ. The Supreme Court has already ruled on that issue, and
Americans United cites this in its brief. Though “the Constitution my
compel toleration of private discrimination in some circumstances does
not mean it requires state support for such discrimination.” Norwood v.
In fact, the Supreme Court has said “it is beyond dispute that any
public entity, state or federal, has a compelling interest in assuring
that public dollars…do not serve to finance the evil of private
prejudice.” City of Richmond v. J .A. Croson Co.
That leads me to this simple question: Why should students be required to fund the “private prejudices” of CLS?
No other student group expects this. A current student leader from
UC-Hastings’ Jewish Law Students Association (HJLSA) said her group
accepts and welcomes students from all faith backgrounds. She
said the university doesn’t “force” them to admit students of other
faiths; it’s merely a choice of whether the group wants university
recognition and funds, or not.
In fact, HJLSA only accepts school funding to carry out its secular
activities. The group does not even use school funds for religious
events. Instead, to pay for religious activities, such as Shabbat
dinners, HJLSA relies on donations from alumni and collaboration with
the local Hillel. But the group chooses to invite all students from
different backgrounds to share in religious events.
That’s how it should be done. What I want to know is why CLS thinks
it’s above and beyond following a basic non-discrimination policy that
has been applied neutrally to all student groups – religious or not –
across the board.
I’d like to hear your answers to my questions, and I hope we can continue discussing this very important case.
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