Yesterday (Monday) the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a Christian club at a California law school cannot close its leadership to certain students, specifically homosexuals/lesbians. To read about this, check out Christianity Today and Inside Higher Education. What strikes me most is that this issue is not over, as Justice Ginsberg said that lower courts had not addressed the argument that the Law School selectively enforced its policy, effectively discriminating against Christians.
I am not a legal mind by any stretch of the imagination, and I have no idea how this will affect campus ministry at all. What I can say is, unless the Court and American universities begin an outright discrimination against Christian groups, this ruling cannot be consistently applied on college campuses.
If student-run groups are not allowed to keep their distinctives, then the whole reason for forming such a group is destroyed. Think of the chaos that could begin. What happens when a group of white supremacists take over an African-American heritage group? Or a bunch of Republicans take over the College Democrats (or vice versa)? Imagine a group of Christians taking over a Muslim Student Association and putting the deity of Jesus Christ into the constitution, or a group of Muslims joining a Christian group and taking the deity of Christ out of the group’s constitution. Perhaps the Muslims and Christians could join together, take over the atheist group.
Groups of like-minded people should have the right to join together on a college campus and to elect leadership of those who agree on the issues which cause the group to form. Such groups should tolerate their peers, even welcome outsiders to meetings. But it seems obvious that when it comes to leading these groups, there should be no problem with reserving leadership for those who hold to the group’s ideology.
Obviously, in this specific case there are other issues, specifically that homosexuality is the dividing line the club created for those eligible and not eligible for leadership. I wonder if the court’s ruling would be different if it were an issue such as the Trinity, and thus a disagreement between Christians and Muslims?
So I will keep my eye on this moving forward. There are really only a few options: apply this ruling consistently and eliminate any student group with distinctives (which is almost all student groups) or apply it inconsistently and discriminate against whatever group of students are not liked by the powers that be on campus.