Tuesday, June 24, 2008

AP: Religious groups agree to drop suit against USC

The AP in Columbia, South Carolina reports on the favorable settlement in CLS v. Sorenson previously discussed here. The University of South Carolina has rescinded its policy against funding religious student organizations and is working with CLS to create new policies to ensure equal treatment in the future.

U. of S. C. ceases discrimination against religious student organizations in funding and works with CLS to create viewpoint neutral policies

The University of South Carolina, responding to a lawsuit filed by the Center, has lifted its viewpoint discriminatory restriction against granting funds to religious student organizations. This positive change protects the rights of the Christian Legal Society chapter at USC's law school as well as the rights of all other religious student organizations at the University.

Furthermore, the University has agreed to work with CLS to craft policies that protect against the threat of future viewpoint discrimination in funding, consistent with recommendations provided by Center attorneys.

View the press release on these welcome developments and the agreement between CLS and USC as well as other materials on this case.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Maggie Gallagher on Same-Sex "Marriage" and Religious Freedom

On National Review Online, Maggie Gallagher has a terrific column about the ramifications of the California same-sex "marriage" decision for religious liberty.

Among other things, she demonstrates that homosexual advocacy groups are already thinking about attacking the tax-exempt status of nonprofits that "discriminate" on the basis of sexual orientation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Marc D. Stern of American Jewish Congress: religious rights are likely to be "obliterated" by supporters of same-sex relationships

Marc D. Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, writing in the Los Angeles Times:

If past rulings are any guide, it is religious rights that are likely to be "obliterated" by an emerging popular majority supporting same-sex relationships -- and it seems unlikely that the California courts will intervene. That's a shame.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Homosexual Behavior and Brain Anatomy: Does It Matter?

The Chronicle of Higher Education's news blog reports as follows:

Swedish researchers are reporting today that brain patterns in homosexual people
resemble those seen in heterosexual members of the opposite sex, a finding that
will add to the debate about the origins of homosexuality.

Overall, the scientific evidence regarding the causation of homosexual behavior is inconclusive. (See Chapter 3 of the excellent Homosexuality: The Use of Scientific Research in the Church's Moral Debate by Stan Jones and Mark Yarhouse). Suppose for argument's sake, however, that science conclusively proves that genetics is the exclusive or most important explanation of one's inclination to engage in same-sex sexual behavior. The question, with respect to the conflict between religious associational freedom and sexual orientation nondiscrimination rules, is whether this matters.

It shouldn't.

Most of the cases that have reached litigation arose when governments tried to punish theologically conservative Christian groups that take extramarital sexual conduct (including same-sex sexual conduct) into account in their personnel decisions. Most of these groups -- and orthodox Christian ethics generally -- focus on whether a person engages in homosexual conduct rather than on his or her mere experience of sexual attraction to members of the same sex. The moral focus is on behavior rather than inclination. As a result, under traditional Christian sexual ethics, the morality of homosexual conduct does not turn on what causes one to experience same-sex sexual attraction.

Of course, the preceding paragraph offers a theological analysis rather than a legal one. I still haven’t answered the question – whether conclusive scientific proof that genes cause same-sex sexual attraction would affect a religious group’s constitutional defense to a sexual orientation nondiscrimination rule.

As a matter of doctrine, the first question a court should ask is whether the application of the nondiscrimination rule burdens the religious group's religious exercise. Conclusive scientific proof that genes cause same-sex sexual attraction should not affect the virtually inescapable conclusion that punishing religious groups for organizing around shared moral commitments substantially burdens their religious exercise. Nonetheless, Christian groups should be careful to accurately articulate their ethical calculus. They should clearly state that same-sex behavior is sinful without regard to the origin of same-sex sexual attraction. They should not state that such behavior is sinful on the ground that "people choose" to be attracted to members of the same sex.

The next doctrinal question is whether some compelling interest justifies this burden. Is the government's interest stronger if people don't "choose" to be sexually attracted to members of the same sex? I suppose one could argue that religious groups' conduct standards are more "unfair" if people don't choose their sexual attractions. And one could imagine some judges finding sympathy with such an argument. Nonetheless, the causation of same-sex attraction should not be relevant to a court's analysis of the state's interest. It does not affect the magnitude of the alleged social harm that supposedly flows from some religious groups' maintenance of conduct standards.