The Supreme Court handed down a number of decisions in the last few days, prior to taking a summer break. The decision that seemingly everybody is talking about has to do with guns: the Court said that states and local governments can’t impose tighter restrictions than those imposed by the federal government. In particular, city ordinances that ban handguns outright were found to be unconstitutional. I have to admit to being a bit surprised that this was a 5-4 decision.
Another 5-4 decision, and one that I think should have been a 9-0 decision involved the University of California’s Hastings College of Law–a public institution–and a student group called the Christian Legal Society (CLS). The first part of the Court’s decision explains the issue quite well:
Hastings College of the Law (Hastings), a school within the University of California public-school system, extends official recognition to student groups through its “Registered Student Organization” (RSO) program. Several benefits attend this school-approved status, including the use of school funds, facilities, and channels of communication, as well as Hastings’ name and logo. In exchange for recognition, RSOs must abide by certain conditions. Critical here, all RSOs must comply with the school’s Nondiscrimination Policy, which tracks state law barring discrimination on a number of bases, including religion and sexual orientation. Hastings interprets this policy, as it relates to the RSO program, to mandate acceptance of all comers: RSOs must allow any student to participate, become a member, or seek leadership positions, regardless of her status or beliefs.
CLS requires that all members and employees, as a condition of their employment or membership, acknowledge in writing a Statement of Faith that, in part, forbids “participation in or acceptance of a sexually immoral lifestyle,” which is defined as sex outside of a heterosexual marriage. Such a condition is obviously at odds with the non discrimination policy of Hastings College.
CLS tries to argue that Hastings’ restrictions on RSOs violate the CLS members’ rights under the first and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution. That’s silly. Hastings has not attempted to change the CLS policies. It has simply withheld recognition of a group that does not abide by the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
I’m flabbergasted that four Supreme Court justices came down on the other side of this issue. I haven’t yet read their dissenting opinions–something I really have to do. This decision seems so obvious that I can’t imagine what rational reason a judge could have for ruling that Hastings should recognize the group. But we’ll see.