Alex Blaze

It's about money, not religious discrimination

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 08, 2009 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: boy scouts, Christian Legal Society, federal court, homophobic behavior, LGBT, precedent, supreme court

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of the Christian Legal Society and the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. The case is about a rightwing Christian student group that applied to be recognized by the the school (to use certain facilities and get funding), but was rejected because they violated the school's antidiscrimination policy by kicking out "unrepentent homosexuals" and people who don't sign their very specific statement of faith (you'd have to be a Protestant fundamentalist to sign that statement in good conscience).

Their argument isn't sound to this layperson, of course, but I'm already annoyed by the way the case is being portrayed. It's already been called a battle between "gay rights" and "religious freedom," which it's definitely not. The Christian Legal Society is completely free to reject gays and non-fundies as they please, the school just won't subsidize them.

Never underestimate how far a religious nut will go for a hand-out.

The Christian Legal Society is apparently citing Dale v. the Boy Scouts of America extensively as precedent. I don't know if they really want to go there, considering what happened to the BSA after they won that case:

Addressing the last outstanding issues in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of exclusive preferential leases for the Boy Scouts, a federal district court has found that the lease for the Boy Scouts' free use of aquatic parkland on City-owned Fiesta Island is unconstitutional.

"Today's decision affirms the fundamental principle that government may not favor a discriminatory religious organization," said Jordan Budd, Legal Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "When government endorses a particular religious viewpoint, as the city plainly has done through its preferential treatment of the Boy Scouts, it undermines the values of tolerance and inclusiveness that are at the core of our constitutional system."

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, ACLU cooperating law firm Stock Stephens LLP and their co-counsel Morrison & Foerster on behalf of an agnostic couple and a lesbian couple.

The court said the city had violated the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state by granting these preferential and exclusive arrangements for use of public resources to the Boy Scouts, a self-described religious organization that discriminates on the basis of religious belief and sexual orientation.

The BSA won their case at the Supreme Court, which meant that they didn't have to accept atheists and gays into their organization. But after that decision, they lost quite a few sweet deals they had with local governments and schools. If they really are a private organization that can discriminate against anyone, the reasoning went, then they have no God-given right to public funds.

The Christian Legal Society case isn't arguing the same case as the Boy Scouts did; instead, they're picking up where that case left off. They aren't being sued to include someone they don't want to. Rather, they're suing to exclude people and still get public money.

I'll probably have more on media coverage of this case, especially when it gets decided in June. The media can't resist a good "snooty, effete libruls vs. Christian Real Americans" story, even if it doesn't really fit.

(Nan Hunter posted some key extracts of the District Court decision if you want to know more.)

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At the risk of being cliche, this is a great example of the index finger pointing forward while three other fingers point back at you.

The religious right has always used the "special rights" canard to justify its opposition to GLBT rights, yet the religious right has shown repeatedly that it is the side seeking special rights, in this case special exemption from non-discrimination policies.

They always cry that their "religious freedom" is being violated, but for them, it seems that "religious freedom" means the ability to ignore laws simply because they've chosen to adopt some particular belief.

Honestly, the more I see things like this, the less respect I have for organized religion ... and the degree of respect I had for it was in the negative numbers to begin with.

I understand your point that this is about money, but I also think it is about freedom of religion and how far that concept goes to justify harmful or illegal behavior. If my religion says that I must deny my child medical care, or discriminate against Blacks, or take drugs or assault you, or run an airplane into a building, is that protected under the US Constitution's First Amendment freedom of religion? The courts have said no, and I think the result is the same here. I do believe that you are correct that the money aspect makes the case even clearer. I'm planning on writing a law review article on the religious freedom argument against ENDA this summer, and I am looking forward to that with great anticipation.

Bingo. I was thinking the same thing, Jillian. This is about far more than just the financial consequences. The group wants recognition too.