Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Recent Supreme Court ruling worries campus groups

The Supreme Court just ruled on Christian Legal Society (CLS) v. Martinez. The issue in the case was whether or not Hastings College of Law could strip the CLS of its recognized status because of its refusal to allow non-Christian and (more controversially) non-heterosexual students into the club. The Court ruled that Hastings' actions were constitutional.

You may rightfully ask what this has to do with abortion. After all, is neutral on all non-life issues, in the interest of unity. But this case may have broader ramifications than it appears on the surface. (If you have access to Westlaw, you can find the opinion at 2010 WL 2555187.)

Hastings has an "all-comers" policy, which means that it not only prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion and sexual orientation, but any restrictions on group membership. "Hastings requires that [registered student organizations] allow any student to participate, ... regardless of [her] status or beliefs. For example, the Hastings Democratic Caucus cannot bar students holding Republican political beliefs." The CLS attempted to narrow the issue to religion and sexual orientation, but failed because of a prior stipulation. Since an "all-comers" policy does not target any particular viewpoint, it was held to be constitutional.

This decision essentially makes it legal for schools to force political student organizations to give up their freedom of association or lose recognition. Students for Life of America fears that this means campus pro-life groups at certain schools will have to allow pro-abortion infiltrators or lose a key source of funding. This goes both ways, of course, but we'd rather not take the sleazy route of joining VOX chapters. Gay rights groups may face a similar problem; after all, it's hard to plan pro-LGBT events when an anti-LGBT contingent at your own meetings is there to sabotage you.

Will it actually go that far? Hopefully not. Hastings' policy has not been universally adopted by other schools; as the Court pointed out, whether a policy is constitutional and whether it is advisable are two very different questions. Nevertheless, if you run a campus group, now would be a good time to review your college's student organization policy.

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