Supreme Court makes the right call on discrimination

SUPREME COURT MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON DISCRIMINATION…. There was quite a bit of activity this morning at the U.S. Supreme Court, in what I believe is the last day of the session, and John Paul Stevens’ final day as a justice.

The court’s ruling on a Chicago gun law will get most of the attention — we’ll get to that one later — but I was especially interested in a case called Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The case may be familiar to regular readers of my “This Week in God” Saturday feature, but to briefly review, this was the year’s biggest church-state case.

It’s a pretty straightforward dispute. The University of California’s Hastings College of the Law funds and recognizes student groups, but places limits on eligibility — student groups can’t discriminate on the basis of “race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, age, sex or sexual orientation.”

The chapter of the Christian Legal Society refused to allow LGBT students to join — the group’s materials decry “unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle” — and required members to sign a statement of faith. Hastings said the Christian Legal Society could still hold on-campus meetings, but could not receive funding and official recognition.

The CLS filed suit, claiming “discrimination” against their conservative Christian beliefs. The school argued that it is not legally required to subsidize groups that show prejudice towards other students.

Today, the Supreme Court sided with the school.

An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won’t let gays join. […]

The court on a 5-4 judgment upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group’s First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college’s decision.

“In requiring CLS — in common with all other student organizations — to choose between welcoming all students and forgoing the benefits of official recognition, we hold, Hastings did not transgress constitutional limitations,” said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the 5-4 majority opinion for the court’s liberals and moderate Anthony Kennedy. “CLS, it bears emphasis, seeks not parity with other organizations, but a preferential exemption from Hastings’ policy.”

The court’s conservative bloc — Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas — were less than pleased, and their dissent complained bitterly about “freedom of expression” being overridden by “prevailing standards of political correctness in our country’s institutions of higher learning.”

Many universities feared a ruling in CLS’s favor would mandate subsidies for all kinds of fringe and extremist groups, and the decision may likely create new rules for campus groups nationwide.

It should generate a significant religious right freak-out.

The entire ruling is online here (pdf).