Tag Archives: Christian Legal Society v. Martinez

Movsesian on Alito

For CLR Forum readers who would be interested, my chapter on Justice Samuel Alito appears in the just released, revised edition of Justices of the Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions (2013), edited by Leon Friedman and Fred Israel. Among other cases, I discuss Alito’s famous opinion for the Third Circuit in the Newark Police Department beard case, Fraternal Order of Police v. City of Newark (3d Cir. 1999), as well his opinion for the Supreme Court in the “Seven Aphorisms” case, Pleasant Grove City. Utah v. Summum (2009), and his dissent in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010).

Garvey on Endorsement, Graduation Speakers, and Student Groups

Here is a thoughtful, extended comment by my friend and Catholic University of America President John Garvey on an issue with special salience at around this time of year–graduation speakers.  John uses the occasion to offer some broader thoughts on the concept of “endorsement,” which has been so important to the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence.  In particular, he considers the question of the “public meaning” of an official act by a university–whether of a religiously affiliated university conferring an honorary degree on a public figure, some of whose views the school holds as anathema, or of a public university refusing to grant recognized status to a student group whose views it holds as anathema (e.g., the situation in CLS v. Martinez).  I was happy to see that John raised and discussed two documents that we read together in my Catholic Social Thought and the Law class, Ex Corde Ecclesiae and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholics in Political Life.

The piece is also very much in tune with the arguments from institutional pluralism that John advanced to great effect a few years ago as AALS President.  You should sit down with a cup of tea and enjoy the whole piece.  Here is a selection:

When a school stages a commencement program, it is a participant in the free market of ideas. Institutions can participate in that market just as individuals can. Think of the intellectual movements we associate with particular universities: the Chicago School of Economics, the Yale School of Literary Theory (Jacques Derrida), the Cambridge School of the History of Political Thought (Quentin Skinner, J.G.A. Pocock, Peter Laslett), the Oxford Movement of Anglicans to the Catholic Church (John Henry Newman, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Ronald Knox), the Wisconsin Tradition in Legal History (James Willard Hurst, Lawrence Friedman, Robert Gordon).

Universities promote intellectual movements like these by hiring certain faculty and not others, by attracting graduate students interested in certain fields of study and not others, and by sponsoring lectures and conferences on certain subjects and not others. It’s the same with commencement programs. If Michigan State wants to deliver a message about the unfairness of affirmative action, it might invite Ward Connerly. If the Catholic University of America wants to deliver a message about the sanctity of life, it might invite Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

When Montana State invites a minister to lead its graduates in prayer, it too is acting as a participant in the market of ideas. Even though it’s a public institution, it can stake out almost any position it likes. It is under no obligation to give equal time to competing ideas. (The president of the United States is a public official, and we expect him to promote an agenda.) Because it’s a public institution, though, the people have ultimate control over the messages it delivers. And in this matter of praying, the people have taken the position (in the establishment clause) that it can’t promote religion. It is a good thing to recall that God is with us in all our affairs; we should begin every undertaking by blessing his holy name. But we don’t want the government and its agencies superintending our devotions.

It would be a mistake to suppose that this rule (don’t endorse prayer) is an impediment to academic freedom. On the contrary, it is an exercise of academic freedom. In the world of higher education there are different schools of thought on the subject. Americans take one position. The English take another. At Oxford University commencements the Vice Chancellor touches master’s and doctoral candidates on the head with a Bible and admits them to rank “in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”

And even at American graduations, students, faculty, parents, and alumni are free to pray on their own. As I said earlier, the free speech clause protects private speech from government interference. When public schools speak, they may (indeed, must) be neutral on matters of religion. But they can’t impose that point of view on other speakers.

Catholic schools like Notre Dame and Georgetown are also participants in the market of ideas when they stage commencements. In a culture like ours, where abortion has become a form of birth control, it is a welcome contribution to the free market of ideas when a school delivers a pro-life message at graduation. The AAUP suggested that Notre Dame had a duty to “protect and model free inquiry and open dialogue” by honoring someone who condemned the pro-life message. That’s an odd—I would say surprising—position to take for an organization devoted to academic freedom. Notre Dame might protect open dialogue by allowing its students and faculty to take a variety of positions. It would model academic freedom by regulating with a light hand. But to say that the school is obliged to temper its own speech by endorsing contrary ideas is the essence of censorship.

In the piece, John raises several examples of religiously affiliated and unaffiliated universities making decisions about student groups.  He argues that the key distinction is between the public and the private: Georgetown, CUA, and Vanderbilt are different cases than UC Hastings.  For a somewhat contrasting view about the importance of the division between public and private higher education, see Paul Horwitz’s institutionalist take in his new book, First Amendment Institutions.  My own view about the endorsement “test” as an Establishment Clause standard is more negative than John’s.  But–quite apart from the constitutional context–he makes many insightful points about the nature of endorsement and the meanings that we reasonably ascribe to “official” action by institutions of higher education.

And do see the St. John’s Journal of Catholic Legal Studies’ recent collection of essays addressing the question, “Whom Should a Catholic Law School Honor?”

Campus Free Speech and Sabotage

Many CLR Forum readers will be familiar with Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court’s 2010 opinion upholding the constitutionality of an “all-comers” policy at the UC-Hastings law school. The all-comers policy required student groups, including religious organizations like CLS, to open their membership to all law students, regardless of belief. By a 5-4 vote, the Court held that this policy was a reasonable, viewpoint-neutral regulation consistent with the First Amendment.

One of the arguments CLS made against the all-comers policy was that the policy made it vulnerable to sabotage by students hostile to its message. Non-Christians could join CLS precisely in order to hijack the organization and subvert its mission. The Court dismissed this concern as fanciful. There was no history of hostile takeovers of campus groups, Justice Ginsburg wrote, and one had to give law students more credit for maturity. Besides, the law school’s code of student conduct prohibited disruption of campus activities; if such things happened, the law school would surely intervene.

Justice Ginsburg’s dismissal of the possibility of student hijacking came to mind as I was reading this post on Rod Dreher’s blog. Dreher describes a recent forum on marriage organized by a student group at Columbia University. The forum was open to everyone on campus and featured speakers with traditional views, including Sherif Girgis, Lynn Wardle, and Bradford Wilcox. Even though  the forum was sold out, the room was half empty. Why? Campus Democrats had hoarded tickets, apparently in an effort to prevent people from attending and hearing the speakers. Some campus Democrats did attend briefly to hold up protest signs and walk out. Here’s one student’s view of the situation, from the Columbia student paper:

From the start, the CU Democrats seemed misinformed—if not intent on spreading misinformation—about the purpose of the forum. It was not, as some that day said, an “anti-gay marriage tirade,” but a debate on the status of the modern family. . . . [T]he issue of the future of the family is a conversation that the CU Democrats seem unwilling to allow to take place, much less to take part in, despite their physical presence.

To be sure, hoarding tickets to a one-day conference is not the same thing as taking over a group. And, depending on your view of things, you might think of what the Columbia Democrats did as a harmless stunt or even a brave gesture for equality. Still, the campus Democrats used an all-comers policy to disrupt an event sponsored by another student group and limit that group’s message from reaching its intended audience. To me, this suggests that the possibility of hostile takeovers is not as far-fetched as the Martinez Court believed.

Calabresi and Salander on Religion and the Equal Protection Clause

Here’s an important new paper,  Religion and the Equal Protection Clause, arguing that the Fourteenth Amendment independently forbids state action that discriminates on the basis of religion, even without incorporation of the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. Steve Calabresi (Northwestern) and a student co-author defend this novel claim by looking to the Fourteenth Amendment’s original meaning. They also reference trends in foreign constitutional and international human rights law. (Originalism and comparative constitutionalism – there’s an unusual combination). The wide-ranging and provocative paper also argues that public education, as currently funded, is unconstitutional. Here’s the abstract:

This article argues that state action that discriminates on the basis of religion is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Doctrine even if it does not violate the Establishment Clause or the Free Exercise Clause as incorporated by the Fourteenth Amendment. State action that discriminates on the basis of religion should be subject to strict scrutiny and should almost always be held unconstitutional. We thus challenge the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez in which a 5 to 4 majority of the Court wrongly allowed a California state school to discriminate against a Christian Legal Society chapter on the basis of religion. We defend our argument that the Fourteenth Amendment bans Continue reading

Larry Gatlin and Jonathan Rauch on Christian Groups at Vanderbilt

Now there’s a pairing you don’t see everyday. Country music star Larry Gatlin and Brookings Institute scholar Jonathan Rauch both weigh in on Vanderbilt’s denial of recognition to Christian groups in this new video from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Higher Education (FIRE). Vanderbilt denied the groups recognition under its all-comers policy, which requires groups to open their leadership positions to all students, even students who disagree with the groups’ principles. In CLS v. Martinez (2010), the Supreme Court held that such a policy is consistent with the First Amendment. Many American universities have such a policy, but not all; recently, for example, SUNY-Buffalo decided to allow the local chapter of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship to require its leaders to affirm the group’s beliefs. The FIRE video is a very good introduction to the topic; unfortunately, Vanderbilt apparently did not accept FIRE’s invitation to present its side of the story.

“Common Sense, Not Discrimination”

That’s the verdict of the Student Judiciary at the State University of New York at Buffalo, which has reinstated the local chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship as a campus student organization. Earlier this year, the Student Senate had revoked recognition because of Intervarsity’s requirement that leaders in the organization affirm traditional Christian beliefs, including beliefs about homosexuality. Last December, the chapter’s  treasurer, who is gay, told the university’s student newspaper that he had been pressured to resign because he would not sign a statement affirming the truth of Biblical passages, including passages condemning homosexual conduct. The Senate believed this episode showed that Intervarsity violated the university’s non-discrimination policy, but the Judiciary disagreed, arguing that one must distinguish between membership and leadership in a student organization. Intervarsity was open to all SUNY-Buffalo students, including gay students, the Judiciary explained; but  “it is common sense, not discrimination, for a religious group to want its leaders to agree with its core beliefs.” Similar disputes about the religious freedom of student groups have occurred recently at other American universities, including Vanderbilt, and of course, UC-Hastings Law School, the subject of the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in CLS v. MartinezMartinez held that an “all-comers” policy requiring student religious organizations to open their leadership to all students regardless of belief is constitutionally permissible. That’s not to say an all-comers policy is constitutionally required, however.

Tennessee Governor to Veto Vanderbilt Bill

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has announced that he will veto the bill, discussed here, that would ban “all-comers” policies, such as the one at Vanderbilt University, that require student groups to open their leaderships to all students, including students who reject the groups’ core beliefs. Although he disapproves such policies, Haslam said, he thinks it’s “inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution.”

State Legislature Moves Against Vanderbilt’s “All-Comers” Policy for Student Groups

Last night, by comfortable margins, the Tennessee legislature passed a bill prohibiting Vanderbilt University’s “all-comers” policy for student groups. The policy, which requires that student groups open leadership positions to all Vanderbilt students, even students who disagree with the groups’ core beliefs, has sparked a dispute between the university and some student religious organizations, which argue that the policy effectively dilutes their religious identity. The bill initially banned all-comers policies only at state universities, but an amendment extended the bill’s  coverage to private institutions that receive more than $24 million in state subsidies — which just happens to be the amount Tennessee gives Vanderbilt. The bill does not actually cut off  funding, for the moment, but sponsors threaten to do so in future if Vanderbilt does not change its policy. The bill now goes to Governor Bill Haslam for signature.

A couple of terms ago, in CLS v. Martinez, the Supreme Court held that a similar all-comers policy at the University of California-Hastings was constitutional. As I’ve argued before, though, even if an all-comers policy is constitutional, it’s very misguided. The point of campus diversity is to allow the expression of various viewpoints. It’s hard to see how a group can express a viewpoint if it cannot choose leaders who share its beliefs.

Inazu on Justice Ginsburg and Religious Liberty

John D. Inazu (Washington University School of Law) has posted Justice Ginsburg and Religious Liberty. The abstract follows.

Justice Ginsburg has left an important mark on many areas of the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, but she has written relatively little in the area of religion. This relatively small footprint increased significantly in the opinion that she wrote in the Court’s 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. In particular, Martinez’s dismissal of the religious association claim at the center of the case dealt a severe blow to religious liberty advocates who have struggled to find alternate means of protecting religious expression in the twenty years since the Court’s decision in Employment Division v. Smith (which relegated to rational basis review free exercise challenges to generally applicable, neutral laws).

This essay examines three strands of Justice Ginsburg’s jurisprudence leading up to the opinion that she authored in Martinez: religion, government funding of expression, and equality. It first traces Justice Ginsburg’s religious liberty views through four facets of her legal career: her role as an advocate, her opinions on the D.C. Circuit, her Supreme Court nomination testimony, and her opinions and votes on the Supreme Court. It turns next to her views about government funding of expression, relying principally upon her dissent in DKT Memorial Fund v. AID. It then examines Justice Ginsburg’s longstanding commitment to principles of liberal equality. Finally, it considers the interplay of these three strands in Martinez, and offers three observations. First, because Martinez pitted religious liberty against liberal equality, it forced Justice Ginsburg to make a choice that prioritized one over the other and may have caused her to overlook some of the religious dimensions of the case. Second, Justice Ginsburg’s previous views about government funding of speech should have caused her greater concern over the implications of unconstitutional conditions in this case. Third, Martinez ultimately failed to address the values clash directly, relying instead on doctrinal intricacies that detracted from the core issues raised in this case.

Cimino on Campus Citizenship and Associational Freedom

Chapin Cimino (Drexel University – Earle Mack School of Law) has posted Campus Citizenship and Associational Freedom: An Aristotelian Take on the Nondiscrimination Puzzle. The abstract follows.

Student expressive association on campus is a thorny thicket. Student affinity groups often choose to organize around a shared principle or characteristic of the groups’ members, which, by definition, makes those students different in some way from their peers. In order to preserve the group’s sense of uniqueness, these groups often then wish to control their own membership and voting policies. They feel, in essence, entitled to discriminate — a right arguably embodied by the First Amendment freedom of expressive association. When campus groups actually exercise this right, however, they run into university anti-discrimination policies, which can cost them official campus recognition. Thus, in the name of one important value, schools trample on another: campus citizenship. Both nondiscrimination and campus citizenship are values of equality.

At this moment, whose notion of equality is to prevail? Is it the university’s, taking the form of a blanket nondiscrimination policy? Or is it the student group’s, taking the form of the desire to maintain both associational freedom and campus citizenship?

Current First Amendment doctrine is ill-equipped to resolve the tension between these competing values, or “ends.” It is ill-equipped because any traditional First Amendment test is written to consider only one “end” — the end of the regulator. This was true prior to the Supreme Court’s June 2010 decision in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Continue reading