Monday, July 09, 2007

The Legacy of Rosenberger v. University of Virginia

A Chronicle of Higher Education story discusses the confusion that remains after the 1995 Supreme Court decision in Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.
More than a decade later, some public universities still have policies that appear to run counter to the spirit and letter of [Rosenberger]. In fact, a review of more than a dozen student handbooks across the country reveals a confusing and contradictory mishmash. Some policies explicitly welcome religious groups to apply for student-activity funds and inveigh against any "viewpoint discrimination." Others prohibit religious groups from receiving any money. Still others are so vague that it's unclear who is and is not eligible for support.

As a consequence, there is litigation involving schools that are allegedly engaging in viewpoint discrimination. See for example a prior posting (here) discussing a case in which the University of Wisconsin settled a lawsuit filed against it by UW Roman Catholic Foundation challenging UW's refusal to recognize the Foundation as a student organization.

More interesting may be the article's effort to describe what lies ahead. The article quotes Steven K. Green, a professor of law at Willamette Universiy (and former Americans United policy director) as saying that the next wave of post-Rosenberger litigation relates to schools citing their anti-discrimination policies and refusing to fund religious groups that deny gays and lesbians the right to join or be officers. The article mentions Christian Legal Society v Southern Illinois University at Carbondale as one example of this kind of litigation (see prior postings here and here). In that case, CLS sued after the University revoked CLS’s status as a recognized student group because it violated the University’s non-discrimination policy by not allowing non-Christians, gays and lesbians to be voting members. The University settled with CLS and, among other things, reinstated CLS. Another similar case, not mentioned in the article, is Christian Legal Society of University of California, Hastings College of the Law v. Kane, which is still pending (see prior postings here and here).

Howard Friedman, your regular host on this site, provided this detailed Analysis of The Christian Legal Society Cases back in May, 2005.

Thanks to ADF for the lead.