In a snapshot of life in the university culture in which ID must survive, and thrive, civil rights lawyer David Cortman discusses the way that unequal treatment of student groups is simply part of the policy fabric today. He points to the fact that “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Civil Rights Group Would Not Have Been Recognized at San Diego State” (Townhall, September 18, 2011):
San Diego State University is the site of the most recent clash between religious student groups and university nondiscrimination policies. SDSU’s policy prohibits discrimination in membership or leadership on the basis of “race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability,” but exempts all “social fraternities or sororities” from the prohibition on gender discrimination (an enormous exemption) and, most critically, allows non-religious groups to require their members and leaders to adhere to their beliefs.
So, SDSU’s policy allows a vegetarian club to refuse membership to meat-eaters and a Democrat club to bar Republicans from leadership, but requires religious student organizations to include members and leaders who disagree with their religious beliefs
. One outcome is, he says,
Relying on its policy, SDSU denied official recognition (and the critical benefits that come with recognition) to Alpha Delta Chi (ADX), a Christian sorority, and Alpha Gamma Omega (AGO), a Christian Fraternity. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit put it, SDSU denied recognition to these groups because they share a “requirement that their members and officers profess a specific religious belief, namely, Christianity.” Denial of recognition imposes a huge burden on these groups. Without recognition, ADX and AGO cannot access the myriad channels of communication all other student groups use to promote their views and recruit new members. They can exist only informally, segregated from the vibrant communal life of campus clubs.
Do they understand that such a misapplication of similar policies would have barred a hypothetical student chapter of Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights group – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference – from securing official recognition if it wanted to require members to adhere to its Christian beliefs?
Of course, it’s not that simple. Most of today’s students would not even support civil rights as understood in the early 1960s. Their own sense of justice fully supports favoritism, exclusions, and censorship, directed by state policy.
Many advocates of historic civil rights brace themselves for the day when those students become the policy makers. They have never been told that a person does not commit a crime by offending them. Or that people they don’t agree with have a right to speak. Or that people can disagree civilly. Or that churches can teach a doctrine they don’t agree with. Or that a scientist whose findings do not conform to the majority need not hide her results.
It’s good that Martin Luther King did not live to see today’s campus. In his day, he achieved his own goals for African Americans. But the bad guys won all the rest.
The ID controversy is a small but crucial part of a much larger battle for intellectual freedom and for truth that matters.
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