Friday, December 28, 2007

Strict Separationists Once Again Support Discrimination Against Religion

I suppose this is just a "dog bites man" story, but liberal strict separationist groups have once again expressed their support for government discrimination against religion.

The ACLU, People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Federation of Teachers have together urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to uphold a district court decision that nothing in the federal Constitution stops Colorado from revoking college tuition assistance from those students who choose to attend Colorado Christian University. That revocation is based upon the state's conclusion that CCU is "too religious," even though it is an accredited four-year liberal arts institution that offers majors in computer science, business administration, and numerous other "secular" fields of study.

It matters not to these groups that Colorado financially assists students majoring in the same subjects at secular, public, and less religious institutions. It matters not that the state conducts an intrusive and subjective analysis of a college's religiosity in determining whether to revoke aid to its students. So much for "separation of church and state."

The bottom line is that these groups disagree with the theologically conservative Christian worldview that underlies the educational experience at CCU. They are comfortable with forcing religiously conservative taxpayers to support students at secular and "mildly" religious universities, because the education there is more consistent with their own worldview. But they cannot tolerate allowing economically disadvantaged students who choose CCU to keep their assistance.

Religious liberty is supposed to be about government neutrality towards religion. In the eyes of these groups, church-state law is simply a tool, to be used for marginalizing their ideological opponents.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

What Will the Next President Do With the Faith-Based Initiative?

President Bush's Faith-Based and Community Initiative was designed to remove obstacles to the full participation of faith-based and community organizations in federally funded social service programs. Although Congress failed to enact much legislation implementing the initiative, the Bush Administration changed many of the rules and regulations governing the relationship between federal agencies and faith-based social service providers. For example, President Bush issued Executive Order 13279, which required federal agencies to respect the faith-based hiring practices of religious contractors.

The next president will be free to rescind or modify this EO 13279 and the other regulatory changes the current president made. I am aware of no good reason to think that any of the Republican candidates would un-do these positive developments. The real question is whether any of the Democratic candidates would do so. It appears that a majority of congressional Democrats oppose protecting the faith-based hiring practices of religious government contractors and grant recipients. Therefore, it is reasonable to speculate that most if not all of the Democratic presidential candidates hold the same view.

It is conceivable that the next president might add "sexual orientation" to the list of characteristics upon which federal contractors and grant recipients may not rely in choosing their personnel. It is conceivable that there will be no exemption for religious employers, many of whom consider extramarital sexual conduct in their employment decisions. Such a move would be an unwelcome development for theologically conservative social service providers seeking to participate in government-funded programs.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another CLS Chapter Derecognized - This Time at The University of Montana School of Law

UPDATE Mon Dec. 17, 2007, 6:36 p.m. See also: the CLS v. U. Montana page on the CLS website with links to the press release, the complaint, and other material.

Over the past two decades CLS chapters have faced derecognition at approximately 17 Universities around the country on the basis that CLS's Statement of Faith requirement for its voting members and officers (it bears repeating for the umpteenth time that ANYONE is invited and welcome at CLS meetings and activities) violates a school nondiscrimination policy. In many cases the schools have argued that CLS commits religious discrimination. Increasingly however, schools are adopting "sexual orientation" nondiscrimination rules and claiming that because CLS interprets its Statement of Faith to include the belief that sexual conduct outside marriage (whether with someone of the same or opposite sex) is sinful, CLS discriminates on the basis of "sexual orientation."

In all but one of CLS's encounters with chapter derecognition CLS has succeeded - in or out of court - in regaining recognition for its chapter with its membership and leadership rules uncompromised. From settlement agreements in which the University altered its policies to accommodate CLS (Arizona State, Ohio State, etc.) to federal court decisions holding that applying such policies to religious organizations is unconstitutional (Southern Illinois University) to decisions on appeal by Student Bar panels that a religious organizations' faith requirements for membership and leadership are not properly termed "discrimination" at all (Idaho), CLS has been almost uniformly successful. The one exception is the University of California-Hastings College of Law where an appeal to the 9th Circuit is pending).

The University of Montana School of Law has decided to be #18. Although the Associated Students of the University of Montana, the main campus student association, has recognized CLS-UM, the law school will not. More properly, although the SBA originally recognized CLS earlier this year, with the SBA deciding that SBA nondiscrimination policies did not preclude CLS recognition, the SBA then effectively submitted CLS to a law school-wide popularity vote which CLS narrowly lost. In light of this, the SBA THEN decided that CLS-UM violated its nondiscrimination rules and derecognized the chapter.

We have filed a complaint in federal court in Missoula, Montana on behalf of CLS-UM and National CLS. The complaint is linked from the release linked above. Expect more here on this case in the weeks ahead.

Public School Teachers' Unions Don't Want Competition

More evidence that public school teachers' unions simply don't want competition: they recently filed a friend of the court brief arguing that states should have the power to discriminate against parents and students who choose religious schooling.

The state of Colorado provides higher ed tuition assistance to eligible students. There's a catch, though: if a student and his or parents choose a college that the state has deemed "too religious," then the assistance is revoked. Represented by the CLS Center, Colorado Christian University challenged this discriminatory system in court.

In an amicus brief filed earlier this month, the public school establishment (the National Education Association, the Colorado Education Association, the National School Boards Association, and the National Parent Teacher Association) once again demonstrated its opposition to educational choice and genuine religious freedom.

Why are they opposed to choice in education? According to their own "statement of interest" in the brief, they believe that giving parents and students choice might threaten public (i.e., government-run) schools -- meaning the interests of the public school teachers' unions and their members.