Monday, April 19, 2010

Demanding funding for discrimination!

The Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court is due today to hear arguments on a Campus Christian Group.
In a case that pits nondiscrimination policies against freedom of religion, the Supreme Court is grappling with whether universities and colleges can deny official recognition to Christian student groups that refuse to let non-Christians and gays join.
The Christian Legal Society (CLS) - at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco - is the petitioner in the case; it contends that its constitutional freedoms of speech, religion and association were violated when Hastings denied this Christian group recognition as a student group.

Hastings' position is that it turned the Christian Legal Society down because all recognized campus groups, which are eligible for financing and other benefits, may not exclude people due to religious belief, sexual orientation and other reasons. The University of California requires all registered student organizations to be nondiscriminatory if they want to operate on campus, regardless of viewpoint.

For its voting members, the CLS adheres to a Statement of Faith (which is mandatory for the voting members to sign) which includes the belief that "that Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of a marriage between a man and a woman", and considers being gay an "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" which is considered to be inconsistent with the CLS Statement of Faith.

A Statutory Disclaimer is required here: I am not a lawyer, by any stretch of imagination. I am trying to view this case from a common sense perspective, and therefore, my viewpoint may be deeply flawed.

With that proviso, I must admit I am very curious about this case. To my understanding, CLS, as a group, has every right - Constitutional Right, no less - to engage in any homophobic, discriminatory practice they choose, within their own group. Their Freedom of Speech and of Religion assures that. However, it is beyond me how they can - morally, ethically, as well as legally - demand funding from the University towards sustaining those discriminatory practices.

If the University does indeed provide them with financing and other benefits (as University of Southern Illinois did, according to the AP report), doesn't that (a) violate the non-discriminatory, non-partisan ethos of the academic learning environment, and (b) open up the possibility of counter-lawsuits against the University by Gay Rights groups fighting for equality? Can the University not be held accountable for being complicit in enabling discriminatory behaviour that is against the law of the land?

To my mind, there are at least one hypothetical parallel that one can draw. Would the University be equally obligated to provide funding if, for example, a White Supremacist student group, that denies admission to Black or Hispanic Americans, asks for it?

Lots of questions. In fact, not only just mine. The nation's highest court's decision today is expected to set a national standard for universities and colleges to follow when religious and other groups that want to exclude certain people apply for money and recognition from those institutions of learning.

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