Check out David French’s post over at National Review’s Phi Beta Cons about the University of North Carolina’s lame attempt to spin its loss in a case involving a Christian fraternity’s right to free association into a vindication of what it had said all along.
So I know not everyone in the world is a lawyer, but let’s take this hypothetical: (1) a public university refuses to recognize a student group because it will not let that group exclude people who do not share the beliefs of the group; (2) the college is then slammed in the newspapers, on the radio, on the television, and by national advocacy organizations for not understanding that constitutionally protected freedom of association means nothing if you cannot exclude people who do not share your beliefs (the College Democrats can exclude Republicans; the campus NAACP can exclude segregationists; the campus pro-life group can exclude pro choice activists; and so on); (3) the university takes inadequate steps to reform its policy and then is sued; (4) a federal court enjoins the policy because it is likely highly unconstitutional; (5) the public college recognizes the student group, and changes it policies; (6) the court dismisses the case because, under the changed policy, the student group may now exclude people who do not share the group’s beliefs. Would you call this a victory for the university that wasted countless hours and taxpayer countless dollars in a failed attempt to exclude a student group? Maybe if you were nuts—or maybe if you were UNC Chapel Hill.
As David writes:
The university has of course spun this outcome as a vindication (despite the injunction and despite the policy change), with the Chancellor saying in a statement: “We believe this ruling affirms the university’s central position since the case began. There is value in having a non-discrimination policy at a public university.”
This statement is absurd. The plaintiffs never challenged the existence or value of non-discrimination policies at public universities. They simply argued (and the judge agreed when he granted their motion for preliminary injunction), that non-discrimination policies can’t be so broad as to deny religious organizations the right to use religious principles when selecting its members and leaders.
Jon Sanders over at The Locker Room quips: “[I]f you were wondering whatever happened to the Iraqi Information Minister, maybe he’s producing spin at UNC.”
If UNC sees this as a vindication of what it has believed all along, let’s see what would happen if it should try to tell religious groups there for a third time that they may not “discriminate” against members who do not share the basic tenets of the faith. They will lose in again and again both in the court of public opinion and in the courts of law.