On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled unanimously that law schools could not bar military recruiters from their campus. The Cato Institute (often described as “conservative” but in actuality libertarian) contrasted that decision with that which found that the Boy Scouts could discriminate.
The Solomon Amendment was enacted by Congress to require that universities which receive federal funding cannot refuse access to military recruiters. The schools argued that these recruiters were for institutions that discriminate in employment against gays and lesbians and, since they did not allow non-military discriminatory employers, they should be able to restrict access to military recruiters as well.
The administration argued, and the SCOTUS agreed, that the universities’ free speech was not infringed because they could simply refuse to accept the funds if they disagreed with the military policy.
Pragmatically, the result may positively impact the gay community. It may result in a higher visibility of protest on campus. It may also result in a higher percentage of military lawyers that are trained in universities where there is a strong culture of acceptance of gay people. In the long run, this may hasten the demise of officially sanctioned discrimination in the military against gay persons.
However, the decision bothers me. Setting aside for the moment the issue of discrimination, in effect the SCOTUS has said that the federal government may tax its citizens and provide services, but that the funding of those services can be tied to acquiescence to an administration’s political policy. If you protest a policy, you may lose your funding.
I am not a proponent of increased governmental collection for and administration of services; and one reason is demonstrated here. Nonetheless, there are certain projects of a research nature that benefit all of a society and for which it is reasonable to have the government fund them and research institutions such as universities perform them. While it seems that this decision by SCOTUS only impacts access by military recruiters (an administrative activity), it should be considered very concerning whether it is a harbinger of future efforts to tie federal funding to the educational content of universities.
I do not think it unlikely that some legislative body (probably on a state level) will now try to tie unrelated research funding to the teaching of ex-gay propaganda or other religious creed in private universities.