A New Generation of Conservative Thought

Supreme Court throws Christians to the lions

By Dr. Grace Vuoto
July 1, 2010

As Americans get ready to celebrate the Fourth of July, they can also mourn the death of key freedoms enshrined in our Constitution. The Founding Fathers envisioned a land where men and women would have the right to speak and assemble freely. Not so, ruled the Supreme Court in a landmark June 28 decision in the case of Christian Legal Society Chapter of the University of California, Hastings College of Law v. Martinez. If Christians want to assemble on college campuses across the land, they will have to do so only if core Christian convictions are diluted. In other words, the progressive assault on Christianity continues unabated and is now escalating to an unprecedented level.

The case begets straightforward questions: Do Christian groups on campus have the right to assemble according to the standards of the faith? Do they have the right to define their membership according to their values?

In 2004, Leo Martinez, the Dean of the Hastings College of Law at the University of California, refused to give official recognition to the Christian Legal Society (CLS), thus depriving it of access to perks and privileges that would generally be bestowed on a campus organization. The Dean insisted that CLS could not declare that its members must abide by essential Christian values such as not participating in premarital or homosexual activity. In other words, Mr. Martinez decided that the core values of Christianity are discriminatory—that is, they discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and against other religions. He insisted that every organization on campus must abide with the schools’ “all comers” policy: any student who wishes to join any campus club must be allowed to do so.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court sided with Mr. Martinez on the grounds that an institution using state money is not obligated to bestow these funds on a campus group, as long as the decisions made by administrators are consistent and do not reveal religious or political favoritism. The high court failed to take into account that there are approximately 60 other college groups, including La Raza and the Association of Muslim Law Students that did qualify for such funding. CLS rightly argued that it was the victim of anti-Christian bias.

According to the perverse logic of the ruling, all groups on an American university campus are obligated to allow even those who disagree with the core mission of the group to join that group. That is like saying that an organization defined by its membership criteria must nonetheless override its very own membership criteria. Hence, a campus organization devoted to the empowerment of blacks, for example, must allow entry to white supremacists; a Republican campus organization must permit Democrats to join; and an animal rights group must permit fur hunters to join, etc. Yet, the Constitution explicitly and clearly states that Americans have the right of free assembly as they see fit: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” Apparently, in this ruling, the Supreme Court has failed Constitution 101 and is incapable of reading the plain language of the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruling will now set a dangerous precedent by deeming that the state can legislate to undermine the core values of Christian associations. By interfering in college membership criteria, the court is essentially declaring that it, rather than the people, is the ultimate arbiter of morals. This is a legal dagger aimed right at the heart of the Christian faith.

The ruling is one giant step forward toward achieving one of the primary objectives of progressives: to create a society in which every individual is free to have unlimited sex of any kind whatsoever—and without any social stigma. The first round of arguments to this end, used from the end of the nineteenth century with the publication of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859) to the middle of the twentieth century, was based on allowing consenting adults to determine their own lifestyles. Yet, from the 1960s onwards, there has been a steady attempt to make all lifestyles not just legal but socially acceptable, too. In the last three decades, the battle has been taken increasingly to the workplace, with anti-discrimination laws permeating the daily lives and interactions of Americans in public and private institutions. And now, the culture war is escalating to assaulting the very composition of traditional faiths such as Christianity. Christians believe only some behaviors are morally acceptable; but the Supreme Court prefers to plant dissenters into the very belly of Christian associations with the obvious intention of further eroding these moral principles—until possibly the principles themselves are so weak that they are irrelevant or that they are outlawed altogether.

In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court has essentially declared that Christians are a threat to the permissive morality of our times. This is the beginning of the dawn of a new era: Use the courts to dilute the nature of Christian membership and association and eventually, the courts can deem that Christianity itself is discriminatory and therefore illegal.

From a historical perspective, there is very little that is new under the sun. During the Roman Empire, Christianity was initially outlawed and Christians were viscously persecuted. The Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in 312; Christians were tolerated and benefited from the patronage of the Emperor. In 380, Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and henceforth, pagans were savagely persecuted by the state. The persecution of heretics continued into the Middle Ages and the early modern era. We are now witnessing the opposite trend: Christianity is losing its sacred place in our republic and is being persecuted as it was in ancient times.

And perhaps it must be so: History has shown us that Christianity and paganism are mortal enemies and cannot coexist. Only one can triumph. This is a fact that liberals starkly recognize; but Christians are reluctant to accept this reality. Unless American Christians are awakened to the dangers ahead, paganism will devour us much like the Christians thrown to the lions in yesteryear.

-Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.