University subsidizes discrimination by settling lawsuit

Settlement did not show “civility and mutual respect” to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and nontheists.

E. Thomas Sullivan and Robert J. Jones’ assumptions about being required to support groups that have discrimination policies are incorrect. Secular government-provided funding is subsidizing the discrimination policies of a religious organization – that’s just not required.

Sullivan and Jones also failed to take notice of Barnes-Wallace v. City of San Diego. U.S. District Court Judge Napoleon Jones Jr. ruled on July 31, 2003, that the city of San Diego, Calif., violated federal and state constitutional rules against establishment of religion by maintaining a $1-per-year lease for Balboa Park, described by the judge as “prized public parkland,” with the Boy Scouts of America, which he characterized as “a religious organization.”

Like the California Constitution, the U.S. Constitution has strong prohibitions on government activity that advances or promotes religion. The U.S. Supreme Court has cut back in recent years on the strength of the federal prohibitions by permitting government subsidies through “neutral” programs – including programs providing financial assistance to private schools without regard to their religious characters. The court found in the Barnes-Wallace case, however, that the park leases violated even the weaker federal prohibition. This case is on appeal.

Sullivan and Jones also seem to have not taken notice of Gov. Gary Locke, et al. v. Joshua Davey. In 1999, Davey enrolled as a student studying pastoral ministries at Northwest College, a private college in Kirkland, Wash. Davey’s studies were designed to prepare him to be a minister. Davey applied for a Promise Scholarship, for which he qualified under grade and income requirements. However, he was not eligible for the aid because of the state constitutional and statutory prohibitions on use of state money to fund religious education.

District Court Judge Barbara Rothstein granted summary judgment in favor of the state, ruling that while Davey had a right to pursue his religious education, the state was not obligated to underwrite the exercise of Davey’s sfundamental rights and had done nothing to prevent him from exercising those rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld this decision.

In principled thought-processing, school subsidies wouldn’t be withheld from the Maranatha Christian Fellowship student organization because it is a religious group, but school subsidies would be withheld, because the organization discriminates in a manner inconsistent with school policy.

Permitting government subsidies through “neutral” programs doesn’t mean the school is obligated to provide government subsidies; in settling with the Maranatha student organization, the University failed to remember that the constitutional protections for free speech, free association and free exercise of religion doesn’t mean the government is obligated to provide subsidies for these activities.

The opinion states: “Especially when those differences seem to divide us most, we must make every effort to engage one another with civility and mutual respect.”

The decision to settle instead of fight the Maranatha lawsuit demonstrated a school administration’s failure to follow its own diversity policies and did not show “civility and mutual respect” to the gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and nontheists who are not allowed to be voting members of the Maranatha’s membership or board – the exact same protected classes of individuals as in San Diego’s Boy Scouts of America case.

It’s clear: The University is subsidizing discrimination. Settling with the Maranatha student organization seems an expedient, unprincipled decision.

Autumn Sandeen is a student at National University in San Diego, Calif. Please send comments to [email protected]