Yesterday, the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit against officials at the University of Georgia challenging the university’s refusal to recognize a Christian fraternity because — yes, you guessed it — the fraternity requires that its members be Christian. Georgia now joins Rutgers, Southern Illinois, Penn State, Minnesota, Washburn, Arizona State, San Diego State, UC-Hastings, Wisconsin-Superior, Wisconsin-Madison, North Carolina and several other universities in the list of schools sued over this very issue. Dozens of universities beyond this list have tried to eject Christian student groups for the same reason but have settled their disputes short of court.
Universities insist that the wave of derecognitions has nothing to do with anti-Christian animus and has everything to do with “defending students from discrimination.” Yet what class of students is protected by the university’s actions? Typically, anti-discrimination rules are designed to protect identifiable classes of individuals who have suffered systematic and debilitating discrimination. The protected classes are not supposed to be mere “categories of affirmation” where the state says, “We like you more than everyone else, so we’ll give you extra protections.” Instead, they are supposed to remedy concrete wrongs — to protect people who have suffered for illegitimate reasons.
Yet who is suffering when Christian groups reserve leadership and membership for Christian students? Are there thousands (or hundreds or dozens or even a couple) of Hindu and Muslim students who are frustrated in their efforts to join Christian groups? Of course not. In reality, universities are not interested in protecting students from religious discrimination (if they were, they would seek to protect the hundreds and sometimes thousands of Christian students who belong to Christian organizations from the disruption and harm of derecognizing their groups). Instead, they are striking at the heart of what these Christian groups teach and believe. The universities want to “protect” their student bodies from dissent — especially on matters of personal morality. And it is so much easier to silence dissent when that speech and the groups that support that speech are branded as “discriminators.”