The Supreme Court of the United States is set to hear arguments in a case today concerning whether a Christian student group with chapter all around the country has the right to claim financial benefits while engaging in membership discrimination, excluding anyone who refuses to accept a particular, narrow version of Christian belief. The organization, the Christian Legal Society, asserts that its statement of faith includes the belief that any sex outside of marriage, and any sex not between a man and a woman, is immoral. Many Christians do not hold that belief, and so the Christian Legal Society has ended up excluding Christians as well as non-Christians from its voting membership.
I am not a lawyer or a law student, and so I don’t feel well qualified to make a legal argument against the Christian Legal Society’s justifications for its religious discrimination. However, as a human being I feel perfectly qualified to comment on the moral character of the organization.
When I read of this Supreme Court case this morning, I was reminded of another organization that requires people to sign a statement of faith – the National Day of Prayer Task Force. It strikes me as an especially insecure act to require people to sign their names to these statements, an insecurity based upon a terror that there might be secret conspiracies of people to… to… disagree.
This kind of behavior is especially disturbing when observed among students who seek to become lawyers. The members of the Christian Legal Society are willing to suspend all rational standards of evidence in order to have faith that their particular religious creed is the correct one, but they can’t summon faith in each other. They have so little faith in each other that they rely on signatures to their Statement of Faith as if they’re some sort of legal contract of religious righteousness.
The University of Idaho’s chapter of the Christian Legal Society reveals the depths of this insecurity in a brief it has filed in the case. The brief frets that even signatures on the Statement of Faith may not be enough to keep out malicious disagreement about religious belief. It warns that additional measures to ensure orthodoxy may be necessary because the Statement of Faith “is not foolproof, for one may sign the statement without sincerity.”
I wouldn’t want somebody with such a paranoid, intolerant perspective representing me in the courtroom. Being a good lawyer requires the ability to perceive other people’s points of view. It requires mental flexibility and an exposure to a wide variety of opinions in free and open debate. Law students who cloister themselves away like medieval monks, in fear that they might encounter religious heresy, may learn to operate well inside the narrow confines of their own company, but will be unprepared to meet demands of our diverse general society.