Earlier this week, I participated in a debate regarding Christian Legal Society v. Martinez at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law in Dallas. I argued that the U.S. Supreme Court should rule that Hastings College of the Law violated the Constitution when it refused to recognize its CLS chapter because the chapter draws its officers and voting members from among those who share its religious commitments. SMU law professor Linda Eads energetically but graciously advocated a contrary result.
In my prepared remarks, I shared my belief that Hastings’ disagreement with CLS’s counter-cultural positions on religious doctrine and sexual morality was at least in part behind the school’s treatment of the CLS chapter. Professor Eads essentially agreed with me, but then said something that truly surprised me – that Hastings should have the power to punish a counter-cultural group like CLS in order to promote “the culture it wants to foster.”
As I see it, a private educational institution, such a religious one, does have (and should have) the power to foster a certain kind of culture, free from the restraints the Constitution imposes upon government educational institutions. But the First Amendment forbids the government from using its power to restrain the expressive activity of a group whose views contradict the government’s simply because of that disagreement.
My experience has been that many public university administrators fail to adequately grasp that the Constitution limits their power – something their private school counterparts do not experience. A greater understanding of this reality by America’s public colleges and universities would go a long way towards restoring freedom of speech on those campuses.
Tags: christian legal society, CLS, CLS vs. Martinez, freedom of association, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Hastings, Higher Education, Public Universities, student activity fees, Student rights, Supreme Court, UC-Hastings