Today’s decision in Colorado Christian University v. Weaver is as important as Rick Garnett says it is. The opinion is a tour-de-force by a superb judge, Michael McConnell; it displays the range of knowledge about constitutional history and religion that distinguished McConnell as a superb church-state scholar during his years in the academy. The opinion re-pays careful reading and re-reading.
In one particularly cogent section, Judge McConnell slices and dices the state commission’s ham-handed efforts to define the religious “indoctrination” and “proselytizing” which would make a college “pervasively sectarian.” All you really need to know about these definitions is this: the commissioners were shocked to discover that, over at Colorado Christian, they actually think and teach that Christianity is, well, in a word, true. Who’da thunk it?
Judge McConnell wrote that the “line between ‘indoctrination’ and mere education, is highly subjective and susceptible to abuse. Educator’s impart information and perspectives to students because they regard them as true or valuable….Many courses in secular universities are regarded by critics as excessively indoctrinating, and are as vehemently defended by those who think the content is beneficial.” In other words, “indoctrination” is in the eye of the beholder, and the Constitution wisely prohibits state officials from wielding power over religion with such a manipulable tool in hand.