Sunday, April 18, 2010

Law? Just Common Sense.

You are a law student at a public university. You want to start a club on campus for Jewish students to keep the holocaust current in peoples’ minds. You register the club, get a cubbyhole office, an Email address and a few bucks as your share of the mandatory student activity fees the university collects.

You’ve had a few meetings, students are joining and you feel pretty good. A guy says “I want to join your club. You should know I’m a neo-Nazi. I know it seems odd; but, I want to be around to keep you Zionists honest.”

Quite rationally, you decline his request for membership.

He complains and the university tells you, let him join or lose your official status, along with the cubbyhole, Email address and couple of bucks. Reasonable or not?

Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear arguments in a club’s appeal against the University of California’s Hastings College of Law policy that any officially recognized club may not discriminate with respect to members.

The appeal is by a Christian group that doesn’t want to admit members that don’t agree with its beliefs “to ‘proclaim, love and serve Jesus Christ through the study and practice of law….’" (From

I’m not going to talk about the Constitution and its provisions for rights of association, free speech and equal protection.

Rather, let’s look at this from a common sense point of view.

There’s twenty or thirty regular readers out there. Let’s start a club. Its purpose is to promote literate, rational and humorous expression by people in blogs. We’re up and running: conservatives, liberals, libertarians and independents all. We all agree, no stupid allowed. But then, there’s a hitch, Sarah Palin wants to join. We look at our credo. She’s not literate, nor rational and she’s only humorous if you like watching train wrecks. She refuses to take a grade school intelligence test. We say no, sorry Sarah, you aren’t one of us, scurry off to the Tea Party, Facebook (and we won’t Friend you) and Twitter. She complains to Blogger, Wordpress and all of the other services we use.

Who’s in the right, us, or Sarah?

Change the scenario a bit. We had the idea to start our club; but, given the billions floating around in stimulus money, we get a grant from a government agency, Health and Human Services, which had the idea to give money to groups to encourage them to include the less than literate, rational, humorous and intelligent among them with the hope that given the exposure, the unblessed could at least start batting .250. Sarah complains to HHS. Hearings are scheduled.

Who’s in the right, us, or Sarah?

The Court of Common Sense finds as follows: We are right the first time around. Sarah wins round two. Take their money, play by their rules.


fermicat said...

Your analysis seems spot on to me. If you take their money, they decide the rules.

Jenn said...

OMG I can't stop laughing. I have a comment, will have to come back. tears. OMG, Dave... your a riot.

The Curmudgeon said...

Dave... would you believe it? I think you're correct. I'll pause a moment while you recover from your faint.

I also think that these kinds of phony disputes call the law into disrepute -- I have no sympathy for any side here.

But let's make this interesting: Suppose the only way a group is permitted to meet on campus is IF it is a recognized, funded student group.

Why can't the Christians sign up to use a room that's otherwise unoccupied? Can't they pay a fee for the lights or something? Suppose the school refuses. Now what do you say?

And, of course the school can't get trapped playing favorites so as long as the group admits everyone, all groups can register and receive funding and hold their meetings on campus. Right? So the group that wants to repeal laws against pedophilia -- but will allow anyone to join, even if they think having sex with young children amounts to molestation -- proposes to register. Mind you, the group insists it is only working to repeal age of consent laws; they're not proposing to initiate young boys on the premises (presumably preventing the school from denying registration on the grounds that it would be condoning illegal activities). So the child molesters can meet on campus and the Christians can't? How would this play in the court of common sense?

Dave said...

The thump as I hit the floor was followed by the receptionist throwing a mug of water in my face.

I think the Hastings case has your facts. The Christian group can meet, it just doesn't get the baby perks that go with school blessing.

In a left turn, I hated the mandatory "student activities fee" when I was in law school. Most law students didn't go to mixers and pep rallies. My student ID and a dollar did get me into Mark Light stadium to watch Miami baseball though.