Saturday, February 04, 2012

Vanderbilt Students Bristle at Notion of Inclusiveness

Some of Vanderbilt's conservative Christians are singing "we shall overcome" after being told by their University that in order for them to be recognized as official organizations, they have to adhere to the University's non-discrimination policies.  One of these is Justin Gunter, a second year law student at Vanderbilt who has decided to cherry-pick out of context some quotes in recent Supreme Court decisions to conclude that Vanderbilt's policy is wrong.

Example one:

In a controversial 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in a case called CLS v. Martinez that an all-comers policy definitely is not required, but may be legal if it is universally applied to all groups on campus. While a bare majority of the court thought the policy was legal, they also questioned whether it was right, noting that this policy was “an intrusion into the inner structure or affairs of an organization” that “sometimes produces discord.”
Umm, no they didn't. These quotes were taken from two different parts of the decision. The first "an intrusion into the inner structure or affairs of an organization” was actually a quote from the 1984 Roberts v. Jaycees decision which was used by the plaintiffs. Ginsburg referenced those quotes after declaring "the expressive-association precedents on which CLS relies, in contrast, involved regulations that compelled a group to include unwanted members, with no choice to opt out." Meaning that Vanderbilt groups, like CLS, have the option of meeting as a group, just without official recognition by the school.

The other out of context quote was "sometimes produces discord," which actually was used to say that if a policy produces discord, "Hastings can rationally rank among RSO-program goals development of conflict-resolution skills, toleration, and readiness to find common ground." Meaning, its an opportunity to hone life skills that don't involve discriminating.

Gunter also references the recent Supreme Court decision Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. Gunter describes the case as this:

Three weeks ago, in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the Supreme Court addressed the importance of having strong leaders in the context of religious organizations. The unanimous majority asserted that religious groups’ freedom to choose their own leaders was a foundational precept of America. In other words, it is not only legal, but it is right for religious groups to choose leaders who agree with their beliefs. A concurring opinion authored by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, and joined by liberal Justice Elena Kagan, argued these restrictions were both legal and right because “(a) religion cannot depend on someone to be an effective advocate for its religious vision if that person's conduct fails to live up to the religious precepts that he or she espouses.”
First off, Hosanna-Tabor was about the ability of a school to differentiate between a "called teacher" and a "lay teacher," and then fire said "called teacher" after she got sick on the grounds of "religious beliefs" because "her threat to sue the Church violated the Synod's belief that Christians should resolve their disputes internally."

Second, what the Supreme Court decided was that Hosanna-Tabor was a religious institution and the employee in question was working in a religious position, therefore, the EEOC protections against discrimination don't apply.  What the court DID NOT find is that student organizations wishing to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs or sexual orientation can still do so while being officially recognized by the school.  Just as you may have the right to freely associate with people of one religion, gender or sexual orientation, so too does Vanderbilt have the right to freely associate or disassociate with separate groups on the basis of a set of rules of their choosing.

So, while Gunter may wish to twist the words of the Supreme Court justices to pretend if there is some unanimity on behalf of their cause, the simple truth is no one is trampling on their rights, nobody is telling them they can't believe what they want to believe, all they are being told is that if you want the official Vanderbilt University stamp of approval, you have to meet their qualifications for getting said approval. If that requirement is too cumbersome, then you can disassociate yourselves with the university or go to a more discriminating institution.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Does Vanderbilt allow groups to discriminate based on gender? If a bunch of men wanted to join a sorority, would the sorortiy be allowed to keep them out based on their gender?

Does Vanderbilt allow groups to discriminate based on race? Does the black student organization have to allow white or hispanic members to join?