Sunday, February 15, 2015

University Intervention in Religious Organizations

The Republican members of South Carolina’s congress recently wrote a letter in an attempt to give religious groups on college campuses the ability to choose who can join their respective organizations. Membership is currently regulated by colleges through the “all-comers policy” that states that these clubs must grant everyone the option to join, regardless of whether or not they follow and/or agree with the beliefs of said religion.
 
This policy came about due to the Christian Legal Society v. Martinez case in which the Christian Legal Society of The University of California, Hastings College of the Law fought against having to let students join if their beliefs differed from those of the group. The Supreme Court stated that they must treat all people equally; therefore making it mandatory for the CLS to allow anyone the option to join.

In order to avoid the all-comers policy, religious organizations have the option to move off campus and disaffiliate from any connections with the university. However, this puts the group at an extreme disadvantage because they will then not be able to receive benefits from these connections such as money, the use of campus buildings, etc. This raises the issue of whether or not schools should have the right to regulate aspects of religious organizations. It is understandable to want to limit or restrict possible discrimination by making it mandatory for groups to allow anyone membership, but the worry is that these new members will be against the religious beliefs and merely be joining in order to cause problems or be unfriendly to the members. This leaves the clubs having to choose between having focused members dedicated to the beliefs and standards of said religion, or receiving the benefits the school has to offer.

I think religious oriented groups at colleges should be able to choose who can join, and that not allowing it is a breach of freedom of association. A strong purpose of these clubs is to come together to further understand and discuss the common beliefs, but how can this be possible if the constituents are not faithful followers? However, I would also count it as discrimination to not let someone join because his or her thoughts go against the religion. It is possible that said person is actually interested in learning more about a different faith, so they want to join and gain a better perspective. Problems with this occur when dissenting members are rude to the organization and their beliefs, so I think a better way to handle this would be to have it mandatory for religious groups on campus to follow the all-comers policy, but grant them the option to remove said dissenter if he or she begins being rude and disruptive.

This issue is important because it once again brings up the idea of how intertwined, if at all, schools and religions can be. Considering the religious group is located on a college campus, I believe that the school has some control over what the club is able to do because they are affiliated with said university. However, I strongly believe that taking away one’s freedom of association by not allowing groups the right to work towards commonly desired goals is clearly unconstitutional. It is true that they could avoid this policy by going off campus, but this then makes the members have to choose between gaining benefits from the school and having fully committed members, a decision they should not have to make. These groups consist of people who want to pursue their religious goals and beliefs surrounded by people with the same interests, and it is unconstitutional to disrupt this process by forcing them to take people in. This would then lead to the issue of deciding who is truly following the religion and would therefore be granted the ability to join, along with who actually gets to make this decision. There is clearly no definitive solution to the issue, but I think religious organizations have the right to choose who is able to join in order to best follow the interests of the group as a whole, and that taking this away is completely disregarding freedom of association.


What do you think? Is it constitutional for universities to have control over who can join on-campus religious affiliated organizations?

8 comments:

Liz E said...

I believe that the "all-comers" policy is constitutional and that exempting religious clubs from this policy is unconstitutional. On school campuses, students should have equal opportunity to join whichever clubs they so choose. Prohibiting them from joining a certain club based on their religious preferences is certain discrimination, in my opinion. I believe that in the slim chance a rude or disruptive student has joined a club, that should be taken up with the school at that time. But to make a general rule for all students preventing certain groups from joining a club is certainly unconstitutional. I do not believe that giving religious groups exemptions from the "all-comers" rule aids in the objectives of the group, either. To me, the solution is clear here. We cannot preference religious groups by giving exemptions to school rules.

Mackenzie Y said...

I don’t think that schools should be able to regulate aspects of religious organizations in the sense of who is allowed to join such organizations. Depending on the organization, having members of altering views may not be conducive to the purpose of the group. It may also provide a hostile environment for members of a particular faith who want a group of people of like faith to get together with. The school would not be violating the First Amendment rights of the students that are unable to join specific organizations because these students can still have their own religious beliefs without being a member of an organization with a conflicting religious belief. I agree that religious organizations should have the right to choose who is able to join.

Ben K. said...

I think the “all-comers” policy should continue to be enforced on all college campuses. Religious institutions should not be able to deny certain students entrance into their organizations. The biggest problem I have is that these religious clubs are benefactors of the school, able to use school facilities and receive money from the school. If, let’s say, a Christian club is allowed to deny membership to a Muslim student, can it not be seen that the school is favoring a certain religious body by offering to protect the religious body’s inclusiveness. If these religious groups truly want to be inclusive, they should remove themselves from the campus, not attempt to revoke the “all-comers” policy which should guide all university organizations.

Alex L. said...

Fundamentally, I understand where the “all comers” policy is coming from yet I do not believe that religious organizations should be able to limit its membership. Most of these clubs have elected officers who make decisions based off the doctrines of the club, for the University to force the club to take certain members encroaches upon the religious club to practice its faith. While I realize it is not religious, there are some club sports teams that cut students, because they do not believe they are good enough or will fit within a group., religious clubs should be afforded the same ability.

Adam Drake said...

I believe that as long as these religious organizations are receiving benefits from the schools, such as funding or a place to meet they should be held to the "all-comers" policy. Students have an equal opportunity to join any school club, and as long as the religious groups are benefactors of the school they have no right to discriminate. The school is not interfering with what the group teaches or talks about, all it is doing is allowing each student the opportunity to engage in faith-based education and work. I agree with Ben when he said if the groups are that worried about who they include they can completely disaffiliate with the school and move off campus at which point they have every right to be selective.

Will P. said...

I believe that the 'all-comers' policy is the fairest way to allow for neutrality in who joins an organization of any kind, but especially those of religious intent. I think that by giving religious exemptions to this rule, there is clearly a bias and clearly a benefit. I believe that the most prudent solution is to adopt an interview process for organizations. If the applicant is aligned with the ideals of the group, they should be allowed membership. This alignment doesnt have to necessarily be of that faith, but is in some way looking to benefit both the organization and themselves. This eliminated the possibility for negative membership while also opening the doors to those who are eager to join for various reasons.

Ana M. said...

I disagree with the argument that organizations have the right to choose who is a member. The “all-comers” policy is constitutional and as it is mentioned in the article, if students do not agree with this policy then, they have the choice of moving their organization out of the campus. Additionally, if the organization is receiving funding then they should not be able to discriminate their participants. The same would be said if it were to be a public school. When students are accepted to a university they usually pay a fee for activities which is used to fund student organizations. If funds come from the student body, therefore all students should be allow to join.

Emily C. said...

I agree with most commenters that if the organization is receiving funding or benefits from the school that they should not be allowed to discriminate against potential members of their organization. The organization should be allowed to remain on campus so long as they allow open membership to all who are interested, but as soon as they begin to deny membership based on religious beliefs I do no believe that they should receive benefits from the university. There are examples of this happening with Christian fraternities who require all members to affirm Christian beliefs and sign a pledge declaring their conduct will be in accord with their Christian values. This became an issue when the fraternity revoked membership from homosexual members because it violated their code of conduct. I believe that the fraternity has the right to refuse membership to these students, but I would also argue that if the fraternity wants to be selective based on religion they cannot be affiliated with the school.