Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

“Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights”?


The Inside Higher Ed story that John linked below framed the Christian Legal Society’s lawsuit against Southern Illinois University as a matter of competing “rights.” Inside Higher Ed (and most media outlets) describe the case as a battle between ”religious rights” which allow Christian student groups to select members and leaders who share the mission and message of the group and so-called “gay rights” to . . . do what, exactly?


Since when has any person of any race, creed, color, gender, or sexual orientation ever had a “right” to join a private, expressive organization when he or she does not share that organization’s goals, mission, or values? This is not a “right” that exists in American law. Let’s be clear: the case at SIU (as well as the current, similar lawsuits at Hastings, Cal State, and elsewhere) do not involve competing “rights” but instead represents an assault on fundamental and traditional constitutional liberties by identity-group activists who cannot abide the existence of coherent, dissenting views on campus (or, more broadly, in society at large).


Anti-discrimination rules (at their best) are designed to prevent organizations (public and private) from arbitrarily using biased criteria as an illegitimate stand-in for actual merit and accomplishment. For example, a person’s color or gender is irrelevant to whether they can become a good insurance underwriter, a good university admissions officer, or a good state Democratic Party chair. But if a person actively seeks to ignore or defy underwriting guidelines, steers prospective students to a competing school, or campaigns for Republican candidates, they will not be qualified for their respective jobs. It is not merely a matter of common sense for organizations (especially expressive organizations) to screen prospective members for their commitment to the purposes of the group, it is a matter of preserving the fundamental integrity of the group’s message. For political groups, shared political beliefs are vitally important. For faith-based groups, shared faith is critical. In other words, the Pope should be Catholic. 


So, when universities–in their zeal to indoctrinate their students in cultural leftism — seek to stamp out dissent by demanding that Christian groups open their leadership and membership to individuals who are actively opposed to orthodox Christianity, they are not defending any group’s “rights” but instead making ideologically motivated demands that would dramatically restrict the fundamental liberties of Christians (and all other expressive organizations).


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