Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Church/state separatist agrees that Christian legal group can exclude gays

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars disagrees with his fellow church/state separatists on Hastings Law School's denial of recognition of the Christian Legal Society for excluding students who do not agree with its beliefs:

My position on this issue tends to be at odds with most of my fellow advocates of church/state separation. In a press release, Americans United is urging the court to rule in favor of the college. My friend Barry Lynn, for whom I have enormous respect, says:

"This case is about fundamental fairness. If the student religious group wins, it will mean some students will be compelled to support clubs that won't even admit them as members. That's just not right."

I must disagree. Well, I agree that this means some students are compelled to support clubs that won't admit them, I just don't think this is a big deal. In fact, it's true of any student club that is based on a common set of ideas. By the usual funding arrangements for student groups -- usually a small amount of money is given to each club out of student activity fees or some other similar fund -- Democratic students are "compelled" to support Republican student groups and vice versa; white students are "compelled" to support Hispanic and Asian student groups; anti-environmentalists are "compelled" to support student environmental clubs; and so forth.

All student groups that are formed on the basis of a common set of beliefs -- whether they advocate environmentalism, a political party, an ideological position like Students Against Sweatshops, etc -- are allowed to restrict their membership to those who share those beliefs. I see no reason to treat religious students groups any differently.

This is a logical result of the Court's open forum analysis. The university establishes an open forum by allowing students to form groups and get recognition. A student who is not allowed to join one group has the option of forming his own group and getting all the same benefits. A non-Christian can form their own student group; I see no reason why a Christian group should be forced to grant them membership (or an atheist group be forced to admit a Christian either).

Read more here.

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