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Education Reporter

Court Decision a 'Handy Tool' for Political Correctness on Campus
Political Correctness on Campus
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A recent Supreme Court decision could lead to restrictive speech regulations on public university and college campuses, say some civil rights groups. In June, the Supreme Court upheld an odd university policy that compels student groups to allow outsiders who disagree with their core beliefs to become voting members and hold leadership positions.

The case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, was filed in 2004 when California's Hastings College of Law refused to recognize the Christian Legal Society (CLS) as an official student organization with student fee funding privileges. CLS required members to agree with basic Christian beliefs and to renounce "unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle."

Hastings officials initially claimed the group's requirements violated the campus non-discrimination policy, but later charged the group was violating a school policy requiring student organizations to accept "all comers." Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed, arguing that CLS was seeking a "state subsidy" in the form of student organization funding. She wrote that CLS could exclude anyone they wanted for any reason, if they were willing to forgo recognition and funding. "No Hastings student is forced to fund a group that would reject her as a member," concluded Ginsburg.

In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito called the all-comers policy a "pretext to justify viewpoint discrimination," and said the majority opinion provided universities with a "handy weapon" for getting rid of student groups that offend "prevailing standards of political correctness." George Leef, director of research for the Pope Center for Higher Education Policy agreed, and said the court erred in ruling that student fees equate to state subsidies. "There are sound reasons why organizations, whether it's the CLS, College Socialists, the Chess Club, or any other, would want to have membership requirements."

The practical result, predicts Greg Lukianoff, is that universities "will read the decision as giving administrators a green light to impose more restrictive speech regulations on students and student-led organizations." Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, stressed that the decision does not require schools to adopt "all-comers" policies, but believes many schools will either claim they've always had such a policy or will pass one. He also thinks schools will use the ruling move to "derecognize" unpopular student groups, particularly evangelical Christian groups. (School Reform News, September 2010).

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