Discrimination Claim Used to Hammer Religious Liberty at BYU

Students at Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark School of Law are facing the possibility of their school losing accreditation by the American Bar Association (ABA) thanks to a current battle between the school and a group of dissident students identified as FreeBYU.org.

These students have alleged that BYU has violated the ABA’s nondiscrimination policies by expelling students who choose to leave the Mormon religion (which subsidizes the university) or live in same-sex relationships.

They are claiming that by dismissing students who choose to leave the Mormon church, the BYU law school is violating the church’s long-held beliefs about religious liberty.

Once again the velvet hammer of “discrimination” is being used to squash religious liberty. Erick Erickson and I discuss this at length in the new book You Will Be Made to Care.

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But what about the facts?

BYU does admit students of other religions; they simply pay a higher tuition rate.  The Mormon students who enroll sign an honor code which, among other things, prohibits leaving the church and participating in same-sex relationships.

The students freely choose to enroll.  They freely choose to sign the honor code. No one forces them to do so. No one keeps them from doing so. Or at least they shouldn’t if it is consistent with their consciences.

These facts are an inconvenience to those who would attack institutions that are actually exercising their religious liberties.

ABA standards state that a law school cannot deny admission or retention of students on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability.

But the ABA’s own rules state that faith-based law schools may adopt rules consistent with religious “affiliation or purpose.”

FreeBYU.org isn’t willing to let those facts stand; instead, they are now calling for a change to the honor code, according to Brad Levin, a 2011 BYU Law graduate and director of the group.

But BYU is standing strong. Mary Hoagland, assistant dean for external relations at the law school says:

The law school received a request for information from the ABA a couple of months ago and provided the ABA the information requested. We have been accredited by the ABA since 1974 and are confident that we continue to meet ABA standards.

Not surprisingly, other law schools face similar challenges.

Trinity Western University, an evangelical Christian school in Canada, is being challenged by a Canadian Provincial Bar Association over the university’s honor code restricting sexual activity to heterosexual married couples. Trinity Western won a challenge in the British Columbia Supreme Court, but the ruling was appealed by the province’s bar association, which voted against accrediting the law school.

Accreditation and approval are tools being used by the Left to force a secular religion on the rest of us — to make us care under the guise of discrimination fears.

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Bill Blankschaen

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