Thursday, July 01, 2010

Finding Light at the End of the Tunnel

by Daniel L. Bennett

The Supreme Court recently ruled 5-4 in in favor of the defendant in the case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. A brief background on the case:
The case...involves a small Christian group at Hastings College of Law, a part of the California State University system. In 2004, the college refused to register the CLS chapter as an official student organization because, its officers were told, its bylaws are in violation of the college's non-discrimination policy -- specifically, its religion and sexual orientation clauses. Each member is required to sign a "Statement of Faith" affirming belief in a number of Christian tenets, including the Bible as "the inspired Word of God." In accordance with the organization's national policy, the bylaws also state that "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle" -- that is, any sexual conduct outside heterosexual marriage -- can be a disqualification from membership.
According to Inside Higher Ed:
The majority held that the exact issue was whether or not CLS could exclude members who did not conform to the group’s core beliefs: “In the view of petitioner Christian Legal Society (CLS), an accept-all-comers policy impairs its First Amendment rights to free speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion by prompting it, on pain of relinquishing the advantages of recognition, to accept members who do not share the organization’s core beliefs about religion and sexual orientation.
Now, I'll leave analysis of the case to others more well versed in the law and discrimination than myself, but I wanted to touch on a possible light at the end of the tunnel. According to Cal Thomas:
The Court's ruling that a public university is not required to subsidize campus groups it considers discriminatory.

[In writing the majority opinion, Justice Ginsburg defended the school's policy, stating that it] "ensures that no Hastings student is forced to fund a group that would reject her as a member."
Ok great, so now that it is no longer required that students or the public subsidize a group that does not accept all comers, we can make some progress on reforming the atrocity that is intercollegiate athletics (ICA). In a recent report, CCAP found that, among other things, funding for intercollegiate athletics (ICA) is often diverted from traditional academic purposes, in effect imposing a tax on students to subsidize sports, and that the tax is highly regressive and unequal in nature, with the relatively poor institutions and students bearing more of the cost burden for ICA than the rich.

In other words, the public and students are being forced to fund groups that do not accept all comers as members. And why doesn't the football or basketball team allow any student with the desire to join the team? Presumably because not everyone has the athletic talent to compete at the collegiate level. So let's deny college sports teams university and public funding, as well as the use of college facilities and resources, unless they allow everyone who wishes to join to do so, regardless of their talent or fit for the group. While we're at it, why don't we allow anyone who wants to join the honor's society to do so, regardless of their academic achievement. The possibilities are endless with the precedent set in this case.

Perhaps the real reform is to require that all student groups, teams and organizations be self-supporting and that the use of university resources should require some sort of user fee. We could then remove all of this miscellaneous junk fees that colleges charge and move to a fee-for-service schedule that only charges those who make use of the facilities and/or services. In other words, a de-conglomeration of the university and its bundling of services. In such a model, groups could collect a membership fee or do other forms of fundraising, which many groups already do. They may have to charge a higher fee without the subsidies, but students would have more money freed up for discretionary use due to the abandonment of the mandatory junk fees that amount to a tax on all students for redistribution that subsidizes the activities of a smaller number of students who participate in campus groups.

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