By Sandhya Bathija
Back in 2003, when I was a first-year law student at The Ohio State University, I remember hearing rumblings about a group called the Christian Legal Society (CLS) that discriminated against gay students.
It was especially controversial during my time in law school because a classmate of mine, who was a member of the gay rights student group called the Outlaws, brought it to the attention of the administration that the CLS was not in line with the university’s nondiscrimination policy.
After receiving this complaint, Ohio State told the CLS to either comply with the policy or forgo being recognized as an official student organization.
For a brief moment, I was proud of Ohio State for standing up for the rights of all of its students. But less than a year later, the university was sued by the CLS in a fight to be recognized despite its discriminatory practice. Ohio State decided to cave to the group’s demands by changing its policy to allow student religious organizations to exclude people who don’t share their beliefs.
It was a huge disappointment – especially considering that I was an idealistic law student and thought the school should have fought this in the courts.
Fortunately, another law school did. In June 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the University of California Hastings College of the Law, which stood up for its nondiscrimination policy against the CLS.
Writing for the high court in CLS v. Martinez, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected CLS’s arguments, stating that the law school’s policy was constitutional and did not single out any particular religious beliefs.
That decision already seems to making waves on college campuses across the country, most notably at Ohio State.
The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that the student government wants Ohio State to stop allowing campus religious groups to ban gay people, non-Christians or others who don’t share their values.
This week, an advisory council that includes representatives from OSU’s undergraduate, professional and graduate schools plans to ask the vice president for Student Life to drop the exemption Ohio State created when it caved to the CLS’s demands in 2004.
This would prevent groups that discriminate from being officially recognized by the university and receiving funding to operate.
“It’s the general feeling among most students that Ohio State should not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” Micah Kamrass, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, told the Dispatch.
Kamrass also pointed out that religious groups don’t have to compromise beliefs to be open to everyone.
Plus, a student organization has no business demanding that a public university support its discriminatory practices. In fact, the government should never subsidize any religious belief or any form of discrimination.
The U.S. Supreme Court got this right and I truly hope my alma mater makes the right call this time around.
Let’s go Bucks!