Nat Hentoff: Supreme Court Got ‘Martinez’ Wrong

By July 9, 2010

Nat Hentoff, an ardent, principled defender of the First Amendment and a member of FIRE’s Board of Advisors, has written a column about how last week’s Christian Legal Society v. Martinez Supreme Court decision negatively impacts the First Amendment right to free association.

Hentoff laments the Court’s “embrace of political correctness” in denying the Christian Legal Society (CLS) at UC Hastings College of the Law the right to set belief-based parameters for who can be a voting member or leader of the group. The Court had previously affirmed a right to set such parameters in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale. In that case, Hentoff reminds us, the Supreme Court acknowledged that if the majority can force a group to accept certain members, then that hampers the group’s ability to express its own views. Hentoff asserts that the Court disregarded this point in Martinez when it declared constitutional a Hastings policy that requires all officially recognized student groups to accept “all comers.”

Hentoff also praises FIRE for “staying fully and proudly with every American’s First Amendment rights to be unpopular with any and all organizations and college officials.” FIRE submitted an amici brief to the Supreme Court on behalf of CLS in conjunction with Students For Liberty.

We recommend reading Hentoff’s column in full for more of his insight on Martinez.

Schools: University of California Cases: University of California Hastings College of the Law: Denial of Recognition to Christian Law School Group