In a bizarre ruling that lacks honesty, constitutional reason and plain old common sense, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Monday (see opinion) that a Christian organization (or any organization for that matter) on a public college campus cannot determine its own membership and leadership rules. You may remember that in April, The Family Foundation hosted a luncheon with attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund who were involved in the case, Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez. This case arose when the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco denied recognition to CLS, including equal meeting space and most means of communicating on campus (the first time in the school’s history that they had denied such recognition to any organization). The reason? Although CLS welcomes everyone to all its activities and events, CLS would not agree to eliminate its Statement of Faith requirement for officers and those who select them, the voting members. Hastings deemed CLS's Statement of Faith and its interpretation that Christians should not engage in extramarital sexual activity to violate the religion and sexual orientation portions of its nondiscrimination policy. Hastings has since interpreted its rule as prohibiting all groups from excluding anyone from voting membership or leadership on the basis of beliefs of any kind. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hastings' decision.
The Supreme Court Monday in a decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg stated that the “accept-all-comers” policy was constitutional. Essentially, Hastings Law School now requires that any club that receives university approval must allow anyone to join – including leaders – even if those individuals are antagonistic to the mission and purpose of the organization! In other words, the College Republicans would have to allow Democrats in their leadership, and visa versa.
In addition, if “all-comers” can join and become the majority, speech is limited to that which is accepted by the majority. The free exchange of ideas is limited only to those ideas that are “politically correct” and accepted by the majority. The consequences of such limits on speech and expression are enormous.
In coming to its conclusions, the Court completely ignored the true facts of the case and sidestepped ruling on the true underlying issues – a so-called “non-discrimination” policy that clearly and boldly discriminates against religious belief.
Incredibly, in a case of either profound naïveté or outright ignorance, Ginsberg argued that it is unlikely that college students would attempt to infiltrate an organization they don’t agree with. Seriously?
The case is not completed. While the Court upheld the Hasting “accept-all-comers” policy it sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit (perhaps the most liberal court this side of The Hague) to determine if Hastings had applied its policy to CLS fairly. The good news is that because the facts of the case are so narrow the decision is limited only to Hastings College of Law, the only place where an “all-comers” policy exists. The bad news is that the Court had an opportunity to strengthen the first amendment and chose not to do so.
In their dissent, Justices Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas vehemently disagreed with the majority, calling the decision a “serious setback for freedom of expression in this country,” adding, there is “no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.” The dissent also calls into question the honesty of the majority, arguing that the majority ignored facts and simply accepted arguments from Hastings that were clearly dishonest.
As I have been saying for sometime, religious liberty in American is facing ever-increasing threat. While some may call it hyperbole, the list of cases where Christians have lost their freedom of expression or freedom of association continues to grow. While most Americans are focused on the depressed economy and the exponential growth of our federal government, we cannot ignore the fact that our freedom to express our faith publically is being undermined.
Sadly, it seems that the church in America will be the last to know that it is no longer free.