Supreme Court will decide appeal of Christian student group
UC Hastings College of Law refused to officially recognize the Christian Legal Society because it refused to admit gays and lesbians
The Christian Legal Society (CLS) is getting their wish. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear their currently failed plea to legally discriminate against the LGBTQ community at UC Hastings College of Law. The CLS claims the right to ban queer student even as they expect to receive student fees from the members and allies of that very same community.
And of course they are using the civil rights argument turned on it’s ear to make this argument. This is the conservative Christian game in which discrimination is turned into the civil right and the religious group identifies as the oppressed body being denied the right to determine with whom they may associate.
In other words the CLS has the right to decide which students – by general identity category or affiliation – they can ban from their group. I mean isn’t this a basic right already? Religious groups have been banning gays from day one thanks to the good old establishment clause.
Who dares to think the CLS can’t ban LGBTQ students from organizations simply because they don’t like them. How could the lower courts deny CLS the right to ban gays because of their personal faith-based doctrine that professes that they are ethically and morally superior to all sexual minority people. (btw – Little secret, nearly every faith-based doctrine proclaims its followers to be ethically and morally superior to ALL non-members.)
But I digress. Here’s the catch. Not only does the CLS want the public forum to openly express their sexual superiority, they also want the public funds. Yes, the CLS still wants those darn student fees from everyone on campus – even the dirty gay money.
They feel that they are legally entitled to the fees and to maintaining their Christian identity. And fundamental to that identity appears to be openly expressed and enacted discrimination against LGBTQ people.
Kim Colby, a lawyer for the CLS Center for Law and Religious Freedom, said a Christian group should not be forced to “abandon its identity” in order to win campus recognition. “Public universities shouldn’t single out Christian student groups for discrimination. All student groups have the right to associate with people of like-mind and interest,” he said.
So fundamental is enacting homophobia to this particular Christian identity, that the anti-gay religious creed is clarified in the legal argument for CLS: “In view of the clear dictates of Scripture, unrepentant participation in and advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle is inconsistent with an affirmation of the Statement of Faith.”
I somehow suspect there are other activities and associations that are inconsistent with Scripture within the Christian doctrine in which their sterling members have been unrepentant participants. But apparently unrepentant participation in this one activity is a fundamental contradiction to their Christian identity. Wouldn’t you think worshiping a false god – a.k.a. membership in another faith might come before this? Banning people of other faiths? Nah. How about coveting another’s partner? Sex before marriage? Banning those students? Nah, nope, hey we’re getting off track here. The CLS will be forced to abandon their identity if they are forced to associate with the gays.
The argument here is that institutional homophobia – legally enforced discrimination against the LGBTQ community – must be a legally protected right. A legal right that is protected by the establishment clause. Can I be more clear, the CLS is arguing that LGBTQ students and their allies must contribute fees to their organization, but then may not be members of the organization – because hey – freedom of religion.
No, of course this is not a new argument – I hear it every day in public schools. He shouldn’t have to be in class with that boy, homosexuality is against his religion. I shouldn’t have to teach that diversity material, homosexuality is against my religion. You are being unfair and discriminating against me as a Christian. She can’t take a girl to prom, it would offend the religious beliefs of many other families. Your very presence is causing me personal harm as a religious person. Because I am a __name the religion of your choice___ you have no rights in my presence.
But here’s the catch. As a society we long ago decided that access to public education trumps personal or group creeds. And to a great degree this legal struggle was fought to get all of the minority religious communities in the school door. We have a century of history of fighting for the educational rights of religious communities. The very communities who are now fighting for the right to keep a foot on the head of another community. Ironic – yes. Sad – yes. Legal – no.
Ethan P. Schulman, a San Francisco lawyer who represents the law school, said the Christian students are entirely free to meet informally on campus. “The real question is whether a law school is obliged to subsidize a group with student fees that is committed to discriminating against some students. If their position is accepted by the court, it could force universities across the country to subsidize discriminatory organizations, including possibly hate groups or extremist groups.”
Read that last sentence again. This is being heard by SCOTUS. This case matters. If the CLS wins, they set the precedent for every other group trying to legalize ‘creed’ based discrimination in the public arena.
I say you go Ethan! There is not an inch to give in this struggle. And from the p.o.v. of a fee contributing graduate student at a university I would suggest that the CLS is a hate group and an extremist group when it comes to we queer students. That is if you define hate groups as fundamentally organized against another community. And extremist groups as taking organized action to hurt or deny the humanity of another community. But maybe there are other definitions that are more forgiving when it comes to claiming God is on your side.
And one last thought:
I do not for a moment consider this single manifestation of Christian identity to represent Christian identity in its entirety. In this blog I used the word Christian Identity in italics to remind both you and me that this group is attempting to attach themselves to a bigger majority. As in CLS represents the Christian community. To which I say b-o-l-o-g-n-a.
I am well of many Christians and Christian groups who do not consider homophobia a fundamental aspect of their identity. In fact, this Christian community just built a homeless shelter for queer youth. And this Christian community advocates for the LGBTQ community night and day. So I’d say homophobia is negotiable when it comes to Christian doctrine.