Can a public university force a Christian student group to accept as leaders students who explicitly reject core tenets of the group’s faith? On Monday the Supreme Court will entertain precisely this question — and the First Amendment right to freedom of association hangs in the balance.
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There’s nothing strange here; one wouldn’t expect the College Democrats to accept as voting members or leaders those students who advocate or vote for Republicans. But the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law, in San Francisco, seeks to enforce a politically correct notion of inclusiveness.
His core conclusion?
Student religious groups cannot be required to abandon or lie about these tenets of faith as a condition of obtaining equal access to campus life.
Writing in the Washington Post, a Republican former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, puts the case in context:
In the past, the high court has repeatedly asserted that a university, by letting a club use its facilities, is not subsidizing that club or putting the government’s legal stamp of approval on its activities. Nor, the court has said, does using student fees to underwrite a broad spectrum of student organizations and activities necessitate that every club has to meet with every student’s approval.
This is why the outcome of this case is so crucial. With Martinez, the high court has an opportunity to either protect or roll back the equal-access freedoms and defenses of religious liberty it has affirmed in recent years through landmark decisions in cases such as Good News Club v. Milford Central School. It’s a measure of how much is at stake that 22 friend-of-the-court briefs from a wide variety of groups have been filed in support of CLS, including one from 14 state attorneys general.
I have real hope that Martinez case won’t be fought along the liberal/conservative lines that have so dominated Supreme Court discussions for much of the recent past. If the justices rule for the Christian Legal Society, they we will be opting out of the “we win, you lose” paradigm of brute government force and instead be granting liberty to all students and student groups within the campus marketplace of ideas.