The following opinion column appeared on Townhall.com on 9/19/11.
Author: ADF Senior Counsel David Cortman
On college and university campuses around the country, officials are increasingly using “nondiscrimination” policies to deny religious groups the right to choose prospective members and leaders based on whether they share the group’s religious beliefs. In other words, laws that were originally designed to protect religious groups and persons from institutionalized discrimination are now being used to punish religious groups for exercising their religious freedoms.
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.