An LGBT/Religion/Higher Ed Issue? I Can’t Not Weigh In

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This matter is already getting a lot of coverage. It’s been in the Advocate, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. John thought it was worth mentioning on AMERICAblog, but was not very critical in challenging the premise. Meanwhile, Alex was rightly quick to criticize on Bilerico, drawing parallels with the previous case involving the Boy Scouts of America and pointing out that it’s about money, not rights. Probably the best background information can be found in the articles on Inside HigherEd and The Chronicle.

The question: Can a university deny recognition to a student organization that refuses to abide by the university’s nondiscrimination policy for religious reasons? The U.S. Supreme Court is going to decide whether the Christian Legal Society can be recognized at UC’s Hastings College of Law and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale while discriminating based on sexual orientation.

I find this question insulting.

Ignore what I just typed and consider this question: Can a university deny recognition to a student organization that refuses to abide by the university’s nondiscrimination policy? Yes. That is the point of having a nondiscrimination policy. If the university is committed to nondiscrimination, then the university gets to decide not to fund (endorse) groups who don’t follow suit. It doesn’t mean those students can’t go there, or gather, or meet, or do whatever. It just means that until their policies match the open and fair policies of the university, they don’t get funding or resources (like space). Any student who pays in should have access; if you don’t allow all students, then you don’t get all students’ money. I don’t know why that’s not the end of the conversation. I don’t know how it’s gotten this far.

Why is the answer any different “because of religious reasons”? It shouldn’t be. It’s really that simple. But this is the USA, isn’t it?

This case is going to be long and ugly. Here are some of the ridiculous claims that will come up:

The policy interferes with our free practice of religion. It’s a violation of our rights.

No. It’s not. See above. Like Alex pointed out, this isn’t about rights. It’s about money. Access to student funds = access for students. Gay and nonbelieving students help pay into that pool of money, so they should have full access to how it is spent. It’s the group’s right to believe what they want. It’s even their right to discriminate. But they don’t have a right to discriminate and get money from the university.

Here’s an actual quote from the Chronicle article from Kim Colby, senior counsel for the Christian Legal Society’s advocacy division:

Public universities shouldn’t single out Christian student groups for discrimination.

Ha! Guess what! They’re not. Every single group gets to abide by the same nondiscrimination policies. The only reason the Christian groups feel targeted is because they’re the only ones trying to openly discriminate.

Gays wanting to marry is “special rights”, but Christian groups wanting to not have to abide by the same policies as everybody else is freedom? Nice try.

Here’s a third ridiculous argument that will be heard:

If we let in gays and atheists, they’ll “destroy the integrity of the society.” We could end up with officers who don’t share our beliefs!

Two questions. Why would students join a group that completely conflicts with what they believe? (Honestly, there probably are some self-hating gays that might actually want to join the group, and I bet the group would be happy to have them!) Why would the group elect officers that they don’t think will lead them?

It’s a strawman if I ever saw. It’d be like if I said I’m going to go join the Republican party so I can infiltrate them and dismantle everything they stand for. It’d be nice if I could do that, but who do I look like, Stephen Colbert?

What this really comes down to is using. These groups want money and access from the university without abiding by university policies. Religion should have nothing to do with it, and the fact that we’ve let it shows what a huge problem we have with religion in society.

As I said before, people are free to believe whatever they want and discriminate against whoever they want… but not on my dime.

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