Good news came out of Washington, D.C., today, as the Supremes pimp-slapped a collection of anti-military academics to the tune of 8-nada.
The Supreme Court ruled, 8 to 0, on Monday that colleges and universities that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus even if people in the academic community deplore the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on gay people.
Ending a decade-long battle in favor of the Defense Department, the court rejected the argument of law school faculty members that being forced to associate with military recruiters violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and association.
“Law schools ‘associate’ with military recruiters in the sense that they interact with them, but recruiters are not part of the school,” Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. wrote for the court. “Students and faculty are free to associate to voice their disapproval of the military’s message.”
At issue in the case of Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, or FAIR, is the Solomon Amendment, which withholds federal grants from universities that do not open their doors to military recruiters “in a manner at least equal in quality and scope” to the access offered civilian recruiters.
The American Association of Law Schools has long required its members to insist that prospective employers agree to a policy of nondiscrimination on grounds that include sexual orientation. The association’s stand set the stage for a conflict with the military and its “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Some law schools tried to comply with the Solomon Amendment by half- measures, relegating military recruiters to off-campus locations. But Congress specified in 2004 that mere access for military recruiters is not enough; it demanded equal access.
Although law schools became the centers of campus resistance, their full colleges and universities stood to lose if they ran afoul of the Solomon Amendment. The federal money at stake comes from a wide range of agencies and for a wide variety of uses.
When the case was argued before the Supreme Court on Dec. 6, Roberts zeroed in on the universities’ apparent desire to have it both ways – to show disapproval of the military’s treatment of gay people but still accept federal money.
“What you’re saying is, this is a message we believe in strongly, but we don’t believe in it to the detriment of $100 million,” the chief justice told a university lawyer.
The decision, in which Justice Samuel Alito Jr. took no part because he joined the court after the case was heard, overturned a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which had found in favor of FAIR.
At the time of the Third Circuit’s ruling, I blogged that it was “destined to be appealed and hopefully overturned” because of my following take on the matter:
Realize first that weâ€™re talking about an all-volunteer military that discriminates on a variety of factors in its hiring policies. I donâ€™t recall my tank being wheelchair-accessible. Because of the special role that the military plays, it has long been legally held that even some constitutional rights are surrendered or curtailed for its members.
This ruling essentially seems to give a free hand to law schools and other institutions of higher education to ordain any aspect of the military that they feel is discriminatory and banish recruiters as they see fit. Well, without the ruling, they could already do this, but with the understanding that there could be financial repurcussions. The schools want to fight what they view as discrimination by the government with discrimination against the government, as long as it doesnâ€™t hit the bottom line.
It’s almost like Chief Justice Roberts reads Target Centermass. Still, the 8-0 shutout is a sweet bonus I did not anticipate.