The Supreme Court ruled this morning that Christians can organize campus clubs and not accept gay people into them but that public universities controlling public funds don’t have to recognize such clubs, because they are discriminatory. The case was decided by one vote, like pretty much all Supreme Court cases now, and the majority opinion was penned by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose husband died yesterday.
The ruling could influence the fate of religious groups providing social services paid for in part with federal funding. Such groups have battled to retain tax exemptions and control over hiring practices that would discriminate against gays, for example.
The Supreme Court has ruled against a Christian campus group [The Christian Legal Society] that sued after a California law school denied it official recognition because the student organization limits its core membership to those who share its beliefs on faith and marriage.
At issue was the conflict between a public university’s anti-discrimination policies and a private group’s freedom of religion and association.
The law school, wrote Ginsburg, “caught in the crossfire between a group’s desire to exclude and students’ demand for equal access, may reasonably draw a line in the sand permitting all organizations to express what they wish but no group to discriminate in membership.”
In dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that today’s decision is a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.” He was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote…
Any student may attend the group’s meetings, but voting members and officers must affirm a “statement of faith,” that includes the belief “Christians should not engage in sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman,” according to the society’s website.
The school says that leads to discrimination which, under law, it cannot sanction.
Commenters at the CNN site are already piling on to the story. “Would this even be an issue if we were talking about an Islamic group?” asks one of them.
[Photo via UC Davis Dean’s Blog of the anti-gay CLS ]