The United States Supreme Court decided not to hear a case today. Alpha Delta Chi (ADX) v Reed. But that’s not really news considering that they decide not to hear about 99% of the cases brought to them. What is news though is that the issue in the case of whether religious groups can chose leaders who share their religious beliefs remains hotly contested on the national level.
If you keep up with the news, you know that universities across the country are singling out religious groups and claiming that it is “discriminatory” for them to choose leaders that share the same religious beliefs. Like in this case where a Christian sorority and fraternity wanted to be lead by Christians. I know, you are probably thinking—you are kidding me, right? Isn’t it just common sense that every church, synagogue and other religious group has the right to be lead by pastors, rabbis, etc. of the same religious persuasion? I mean, wouldn’t we all be shocked if we went to church on Sunday only to find an avowed atheist in the pulpit? Therein lies the rub. This is law, not logic.
What’s even more disturbing, and indicative of the hostility that many public universities display toward religion, is that there is no requirement in the law that they prohibit religious groups from choosing like-minded leaders, only that they may—under certain circumstances—prohibit them. And those circumstances are being fudged. What do I mean by that? Last year the Supreme Court held in CLS v. Martinez, based on a stipulation that all groups were required to accept anyone, that no group could then “discriminate” against anyone. Sound fair? Not if you dig a bit deeper.
By way of example, let’s examine that issue in this case, ADX. The university is claiming that they too–like Martinez–have a so-called “all-comers” policy. But they exempt all fraternities and sororities from the prohibition on gender discrimination, thus not requiring them to accept all-comers, and that is half of all clubs. And this doesn’t even take into consideration that in real life student groups choose whomever they want, thereby excluding whomever they don’t want. So it is really a “some-comers,” or more accurately, an “anyone-we-want-comers” policy. And last time I checked, religious speech and exercise are protected not once, but twice in the First Amendment. One would think that would weigh heavily in the discussion.
So the Supreme Court’s decision not to hear this case just ensures that the battle continues. Universities will continue claiming that they have legal cover to discriminate against religious groups, and religious groups will continue to fight to remain, well, religious. And it is more important than ever for religious groups to continue fighting for this God-given right to be religious. As the battle rages on, it becomes more and more likely that the Supreme Court will have to weigh in on the issue at some point.
ADF will continue the fight for the rights of private student organizations to define their membership and select their leaders without interference or retaliation by state university officials. Please contact ADF if you are encountering similar problems at your state university.