Religious Censorship Deserves No Respect

David FrenchDAVID FRENCH, ACLJ

The brazen intellectual bankruptcy of campus censorship never fails to impress. Yesterday, the Chronicle of Higher Education was the latest prestige publication to cover the California State University system’s mass-scale de-recognition of so-called “exclusionary” Christian groups.

And how, pray tell, are these groups exclusionary? They’re open to any and all students, but they merely require that the leaders of Christian groups be, well, Christian.

The unpseakable horror. How dare these organizations subject their delicate members to such exclusion and discrimination! The poor, fragile adults at Cal State are obviously completely unequipped to handle contact with private organizations exercising the same religious-liberty rights that are absolutely and unequivocally protected off campus. Doubt me? Try applying to pastor a church of a different faith and then sue when they don’t hire you. See how long your case lasts.

The policy is laughable enough on its own terms, but even more laughable are the university responses. In the New York Times, a Cal State lawyer comically declared, “Our mission is education, not exclusivity.”

Oh really?

Cal State itself discriminates on the basis of class, geography, intelligence, athletic ability, and gender. And that’s just in its admissions and athletic programs. Its fraternities and sororities discriminate on the basis of gender, class, intelligence, appearance, family status, and a host of less-tangible characteristics. Universities are shot-through with discrimination at every level, typically also adding race discrimination to the mix through its diversity programs (California theoretically bans such discrimination, but the ban is easily skirted through other forms of discrimination.)

So, please, spare us your crocodile tears over the “exclusivity” of Christian groups selecting Christian leaders.

In the Chronicle, a Cal State spokesman defends university policies by declaring that its policy of mandatory openness to non-Christian leaders fosters just the right kind of atmosphere of “debate and discussion” within religious groups. Yet since when is it a public university’s job to tell private religious organizations that they must transform themselves into, essentially, debating clubs? While there is considerable debate and discussion within any healthy campus religious group, that is typically not their primary purpose. Debate and discussion are part of a larger and more important process of discipleship and evangelization, purposes which are constitutionally protected and materially undermined by the university policy.

I’ve defended Christian campus groups from exactly these kinds of policies for more than 14 years (representing a number of groups, including some impacted by Cal State’s policies), and in that time I’ve heard just about every excuse imaginable for excluding Christian groups from campus. In reality, however, universities are motivated by malice. They hate the Christian message, often despise its messengers, and have literally been casting about for more than 30 years for the right legal argument to exclude the Christian voice from campus.

So now they’ve focused on discrimination and exclusion to allegedly protect students from discrimination and exclusion.

That’s not argument. It’s pretext, and it deserves no respect.


Books by David French: Home and Away: A Story of Family in a Time of War and A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School.


David French is a Senior Counsel at the American Center for Law and Justice. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a former Senior Counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, and a past president of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education. He has taught at Cornell Law School and served as a commercial litigation partner in the firm of Greenebaum, Doll & McDonald. His legal practice is concentrated on constitutional law and the international law of armed conflict, and he is licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. David is the author of multiple books.


Used with the permission of The American Center for Law and Justice.


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