Back in 1979 I was one of the founding members of the Christian Legal Society at the University of Illinois. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Hastings College of Law at the University of California was within its rights to deny recognition to the Christian Legal Society because the group requires that members agree, among other principles, that sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful, and that members must be Christians. Hastings contended that these principles violated the open membership policy of the university, in that it would discriminate against prospective members on the grounds of religion and sexual orientation. Go here to read the decision.
Justice Alito, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, Scalia and Thomas, wrote a thought provoking dissent.
The proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express “the thought that we hate.” United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U. S. 644, 654–655 (1929) (Holmes, J., dissenting). Today’s decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.
The Hastings College of the Law, a state institution, permits student organizations to register with the lawschool and severely burdens speech by unregistered groups. Hastings currently has more than 60 registered groups and, in all its history, has denied registration to exactly one: the Christian Legal Society (CLS). CLS claims that Hastings refused to register the group because the law school administration disapproves of the group’s viewpoint and thus violated the group’s free speech rights.
Alito nails it. The whole purpose of this charade was because the powers that be at Hastings despise the Christian Legal Society because it will not sign on to the belief that homosexuality is a positive good, and has the quaint view that Christians should follow traditional Christian morality. This case graphically demonstrates the active contempt the powers that be in academia have for dissenting views and for the concept of a university as a place where debating voices may be heard.
Alito ends his dissent as follows: I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that today’sdecision is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country. Our First Amendment reflects a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate onpublic issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.” New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U. S. 254, 270 (1964). Even if the United States is the only Nation that shares this commitment to the same extent, I would not change our law to conform to the international norm. I fear that the Court’s decision marks a turn in that direction. Even those who find CLS’s views objectionableshould be concerned about the way the group has been treated—by Hastings, the Court of Appeals, and now this Court. I can only hope that this decision will turn out to be an aberration.