Beginning almost ten years ago, the nation’s colleges and universities began aggressively enforcing expansive nondiscrimination policies against Christian student groups. The groups’ crime? Requiring that leaders and (sometimes) members share the group’s faith commitment. In other words, Christian groups have had the audacity to insist that they be led by Christians.
At campus after campus, administrators have “derecognized” student groups, and perhaps no student First Amendment controversy has spawned more litigation. A quick survey of ADF Center for Academic Freedom and FIRE cases demonstrates how dominant this issue has been. An avalanche of federal litigation (with cases from coast to coast) designed to protect student free association resulted in a sharp circuit split between the Ninth Circuit (siding with the university) and the Seventh Circuit (siding with the students).
This morning, the Supreme Court announced its plans to step in. It granted the Christian Legal Society’s cert petition and will hear the group’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling. This will be the Court’s most significant free-association case since Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, and its ramifications may extend far beyond the walls of the academy. On campus, the very “marketplace of ideas” is at stake.