Friday, April 23, 2010

More Threats to Our Freedom of Speech and Religion

Christian attorney Dave Opterbeck reports,

“This past Monday, the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez was argued before the United States Supreme Court. The case arises out of the refusal of the University of California, Hastings Law School to recognize a local Christian Legal Society chapter as an official registered student organization…

• “The CLS requires members to affirm a basic Christian statement of faith and to seek to live a Christian lifestyle, including avoiding sexual practices believed to be inconsistent with Christian faith. U.C. Hastings found that these membership standards violated the school's non-discrimination policy, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, because the CLS' standards would prohibit gay students from joining the organization as members or leaders. CLS argued that this action violated the U.S. Constitution's free speech and free exercise of religion clauses.”

Opterbeck feels conflicted about this case. On the one hand, he believes that our freedoms of speech and religion should be upheld and cites US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to this effect:

"It is so weird to require the campus Republican Club to admit Democrats, not just to membership, but to officership. . . To require this Christian society to allow atheists not just to join, but to conduct Bible classes, right? That's crazy."

Membership is one thing, but the “Martinez” challenge would also prevent a campus group from discriminating in terms of selecting its “officeship.” This would mean that a campus Christian group would no longer retain the means to protect its own voice, character or viewpoint. Opterbeck adds:

“Without doubt, a ruling in favor of U.C. Hastings could jeopardize not only ministry organizations that operate on secular university campuses, but also religious educational institutions, such as Christian colleges, that benefit in some way from federal funds. This case could represent a substantial wedge between access to government benefits and religious organizations that adhere to "discriminatory" views of human sexuality or belief in God.”

Sadly, with a “Martinez” victory, I can see many Christian institutions changing the statements-of-faith and protocols so as to not loose their support. Nevertheless, Opterbeck has some reservations about the CLS’ appeal:

• “It also bothers me, to be honest, that this case seems to represent another round in the war between evangelicals and homosexuals.”

It bothers me also, but there is no reason to believe that if the Church doesn’t defend its right to freedom of speech and religion in this instance, that the conflict will evaporate. Many have already lost their jobs for maintaining a politically incorrect position in regards to alternative lifestyles. In Canada, a suit was brought against a church for prohibiting someone living a gay lifestyle from serving at the altar. In this country, a suit was brought against a Bible publisher because of the “homophobic” verses in the Bible. The culture wars don’t remain in the culture; they are infiltrating the Church and trying to re-invent what it means to be a “Christian.”

Opderbeck also has a misconception about the nature of the battle:

• “The issue involves preserving Christianity's historical privileges in American political culture. Why should an organization like the Christian Legal Society fight so hard for official status and the paltry funds that accompany that status?”

This is not about “preserving Christianity's historical privileges,” but preserving “equal access.” Christian groups should have the same right as everyone else to have the right to assemble and to make their voice heard. There is no justifiable basis for this kind of “viewpoint discrimination!”

It’s also hypocritical. The universities covertly exercise their own "viewpoint discrimination." They discipline those who leave the unwritten confines of their own multi-cultural, religiously pluralistic religion. Would faculty be hired or receive tenure if they spoke out against the homosexual lifestyle, evolution or abortion?

Most egregiously, UC Hastings and many other universities point the finger at the CLS and other Christian groups for discriminating against other students. However, they are discriminating against the CLS. This represents a double-standard. The university can discriminate, but woe to the CLS! This then represents nothing more than UC Hastings imposing its own religion and discriminatory standards on the CLS, in effect saying, “My religion is better than yours!”

I think that we need to promote an open marketplace so that no viewpoints are summarily censored. It's just too repressive, monopolistic and dangerous to allow our institutions to determine the type of speech or viewpoints that can be expressed.

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