Tag Archives: Freedom of Association

Ordon on Freedom of Association in the People’s Republic of Poland and Restrictions on the Catholic Church

Marta Ordon (John Paul II Catholic U. of Lublin, Faculty of Law) has posted Freedom of Association in the People’s Republic of Poland and Its Restriction with Regard to the Roman Catholic Church. The abstract follows.

The desire to associate with others is a manifestation of the social nature of every human being. In modern democracies, the right to associate is regarded as one of the personal liberties. Such democratic states create favorable conditions for the operation of various types of organizations, including those established to pursue religious goals. However, it was not the case in the People’s Republic of Poland (“PRP”), that is, under the communist rule. In a country modelled on the Soviet state and acknowledging the supremacy of the Communist Party over the entire society, all the other actors of the social system were expected to be mere “dummies on the public scene dominated by the Communist Party.” It is worth noting that the political system deployed in Poland after World War II was based on the atheistic Marxist ideology that was hostile to any religion or religious organizations, particularly the Roman Catholic Church. What follows, when pondering upon the issue of freedom of association in the PRP and its restriction with regard to the Catholic Church’s organizations, the ideological aspects must not be disregarded.

As a part of the introduction to the main body of the paper, the author will clarify the difference between the concept of freedom of association as adopted modern democracies and that reinforced in socialist countries, as well as demonstrating the attitude of communist authorities to the Roman Catholic Church and its organizations. Further, legal and factual constraints will be exposed that led to almost a total elimination of the Church-led organizations in communist Poland. The paper primarily explores the Polish literature on the subject and the material gathered in the Polish state and Church archives, since nothing about the subject has yet been published in English.

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.

Podcast on “First Amendment Institutions”

Paul Horwitz and I discuss his book in this podcast, the latest in the Federalist Society’s worthwhile series of conversations on new books.

Our written exchange is here.

Conversations: Paul Horwitz

I had the pleasure and good fortune of sitting down with my good friend, Paul Horwitz (Alabama), a Paul Horwitzcouple of  weeks ago to talk with him a little about his superb new book, First Amendment Institutions (2013), under the auspices of a Federalist Society program that considers interesting and important new books.  I will post the podcast of that interview when it is ready.  But Paul also generously agreed to answer some written questions about the book, which ranges over all manner of First Amendment subjects, including, of course law and religion, for our ‘Conversations’ feature here at CLR Forum.

Q: The book, as its title indicates, is concerned with examining First Amendment disputes from an institutional point of view.  You define institutions as organizations comprised of individuals bound together by some common purpose to achieve certain objectives.  Why are institutions particularly important phenomena to study when it comes to the First Amendment?  After all, when one thinks of personal expression or religious practice, one does not think immediately of institutions.  Indeed, the paradigmatic case of speech or religious exercise is, for many, not about institutional or organizational rights but about individual rights.

A: I don’t think they’re uniquely important phenomena to study when it First Amendment Institutionscomes to the First Amendment. But I absolutely believe that they’re important phenomena to study, for at least three reasons. 1) A good deal more individual speech is formed or influenced by or within those institutions than the paradigm case may acknowledge. 2) Much important speech or activity takes place within those institutions. 3) These institutions often play an important structural role in public discourse.

Q: One of the major methodological issues that you raise – applicable both to the First Amendment and, you suggest, to all of law – is the law’s tendency toward acontexualism.  You say, for example, that law is indifferent to real world context and is instead only interest in analysis according to concepts of its own making.  Judges think about the cases that come before them in distinctively legal categories.  Could you say more about this and how it pertains specifically to the sorts of issues that you tackle in FAI?  More than this, can you explain why it is an inapt way to think about such cases?

A: Of course, there are lots of reasons why it is not a bad thing for judges to think acontextuality. Most of them involve what we think of as rule of law values, while others have to do with reasons of the particular institutional competences of the judiciary. That said, like any reasoning device or habit of mind, acontextuality can end up obscuring or missing important facts, contexts, and details. The point of acontextuality, in part, is to think only about morally relevant differences or similarities between things; but too acontextual a view can end up missing some of those morally relevant distinctions, especially where First Amendment institutions are concerned.

Q: A different question about acontextuality.  Sometimes it seems that what you describe as the snare of acontextuality is just as much a debate about whether facts or doctrine should rule as it is a fight about which facts are the (morally) salient ones.  For example, in your discussion of Arkansas Educational Television Comm’n v. Forbes, you say that the 8th Circuit got hung up in trying to slot the commission as a public entity, and so it did not see that it was simply exercising its journalistic discretion like a private broadcaster might.  But one might recharacterize what the court did as valuing certain types of facts (the issue of the commission’s private status) MORE than other sorts of factors.  Even though the Supreme Court reversed, isn’t this really a fight about which facts are relevant, more than a fight about whether facts or legal categories matter.

A: This is a fair pushback, I think. But I suppose I would say that cases like Forbes were more about finding what the court considered legal categories than about considering facts or context as such. Certainly, however, there is a relationship between legal categories and morally relevant facts. The question is whether the fixation on legal categories can end up failing to see other kinds of relevant categories.

Q: A question about the relationship of institutionalism and acontextualism. Can one be a formalist about institutional categories?  It seems that Professor Fred Schauer’s approach, which is important for your own, espouses something like this position.  Is there a necessary connection between a focus on institutions and a contextual method?

Continue reading

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.

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

Inazu, “Liberty’s Refuge”

My friend John Inazu (Washington University St. Louis) has published Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly (Yale 2011).  Warm congratulations to John for this wonderful work on a (before his book) understudied but vitally important liberty, which sometimes is teamed with religious liberty in constitutional cases.  The publisher’s description follows.

This original and provocative book looks at an important constitutional freedom that today is largely forgotten: the right of assembly. While this right lay at the heart of some of the most important social movements in American history—abolitionism, women’s suffrage, the labor and civil rights movements—courts now prefer to speak about the freedoms of association and speech. But the right of “expressive association” undermines protections for groups whose purposes are demonstrable not by speech or expression but through ways of being. John D. Inazu demonstrates that the forgetting of assembly and the embrace of association lose sight of important dimensions of our constitutional tradition.

UPDATE: John kindly informs me that he has made the entire text of his book available here for free.  You now have no excuse not to read it!

“They Can Have a Statement of Faith, As Long As They Don’t Act on It.”

George Will has a good column this week on an ongoing controversy at Vanderbilt University. According to Will, Vanderbilt has placed the Christian Legal Society (CLS) on probation because CLS requires that its members adhere to specified religious beliefs, including the belief that homosexual conduct is sinful. This requirement violates the University’s nondiscrimination policy, which forbids a student organization from discriminating, among other reasons, on the basis of religious belief. Actually, that’s not quite right. Apparently, a student group may require in theory that members share the group’s beliefs; the group just cannot enforce the requirement. In the words of one Vanderbilt administrator, groups “can have a statement of faith and conduct of behavior, and this in itself is not discriminatory. But they would not be able to deny or remove any member based on their Code of Conduct. They can have a statement of faith as long as they don’t act on it.”

Judging from reports, Vanderbilt has adopted an all-comers policy of the sort the Court upheld two terms ago in CLS v. Martinez. Assuming Vanderbilt applies the policy in a neutral way, the policy seems constitutional under current law. But given Vanderbilt’s stated goal of promoting diversity on campus, the policy is very misguided. What’s the point of allowing students to form a religious organization – or an atheist organization, for that matter – but requiring the organization to open its membership to people who don’t share its beliefs? Does it make sense to require an environmentalist group to admit members who don’t endorse environmentalism, or an Orthodox Jewish group to admit members who refuse to keep kosher? The Vanderbilt policy, as Will points out, does not promote diversity on campus; it promotes conformity. Of course, Vanderbilt could argue that certain beliefs are unacceptable for its student groups to have, and that it is denying CLS recognition for that reason. That would be coherent; but it is not what Vanderbilt is arguing.  – MLM