By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A ruling by the Supreme Court allowing state schools to deny funding to religious groups that require their officers and voting members to agree with their religious beliefs is causing consternation among Christian and other conservative groups.
CNSNews.com is reporting that the case, Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez, concerned a Christian group at a public law school in San Francisco that refused to allow practicing homosexuals to become leaders or voting members of the group. As a result, the University refused to recognize the group, saying its membership requirements violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling in the University’s favor, with the liberal members of the Court making up the majority with conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts dissenting.
“This throws student organizational mission statements out the door, as everyone at a state school with an ‘all-comers’ policy, regardless of belief, can now join any organization, even if they oppose that organization’s purpose and mission,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
“Today’s ruling renders student organizations effectively purposeless, and would allow, for example, Republicans and Democrats who wish to sabotage one another’s college groups to join and undermine them from the inside out.”
The ruling, said Perkins, erodes religious freedom under the guise of preventing discrimination against homosexuals:
“In this case, the Court is suggesting that orthodox Judeo-Christian teaching against homosexual conduct is untenable on America ‘s university campuses. This is a grave breach of both freedom of religious speech and freedom of association, and a troubling day for America ‘s long history of protection from religious discrimination.”
Perkins outrage is shared by many other groups, such as the American Center for Law and Justice, a conservative civil liberties group that filed an amicus brief in the case.
“The majority of the Supreme Court missed the mark in understanding that it is fundamental to religious freedom that religious groups are free to define their own mission, select their own leaders and determine their own membership criteria,” said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ.
“By permitting a discriminatory decision by the federal appeals court to stand, the Supreme Court decision represents, as Justice Alito correctly concluded in the dissent, ‘a serious setback for freedom of expression in this country.’ And, we, like Justice Alito, hope this decision will be an aberration and not a shift in First Amendment jurisprudence.”
In its amicus brief filed at the Supreme Court on behalf of Christian leaders and student groups, the ACLJ argued that religious groups are constitutionally protected in following their religious beliefs.
“Religious groups by their nature embrace religious principles and, as a matter of organizational identity and coherence, will normally require adherence to such principles as a criterion for membership and certainly for leadership,” the amicus brief asserted. “This is not ‘discrimination’ but rather part and parcel of what defines them as religious groups.”
The decision will now open the door for similar decisions regarding on-campus Christian groups in schools and universities throughout the country.
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