Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Fear and Loathing, just generally…

Found a great article this morning by Dahlia Lithwick off my Slate feed. In a nutshell, two entities – the Christian Legal Society (a student group at U.C. Hastings) and U.C. Hastings are currently before the SCOTUS arguing respectively for the right to free association, and the right to deny funds and other benefits to a student organization the university feels is discriminatory.

What I find most interesting about the case is not the wrangling of the heavy and difficult constitutional questions found in the arguments (those are, though, very interesting in and of themselves - plus, there's just so much subtext in this case...). No, what’s of primary interest to me, I think, is the idea that the two parties butting heads here couldn’t come together on this issue without consulting the high courts. Lithwick writes:
It's clear from today's argument that exposure to radically different viewpoints doesn't always result in greater mutual understanding. Watching the court work today, it seems maybe forced exposure to people unlike us promotes even more fear and resentment.
To me, this sounds precisely like the larger problems we’re facing at the moment. We’re in the process of dividing ourselves into ideological groups. We can see the other groups; we hear what their saying, but we only become more incensed with the opposing message. Ultimately, the fear and anger generated by this standoff would seem to preclude any hope of coming to a compromise. And that’s when things really get frightening…


  1. Of course the whole thing begs the question of a 'litmus test' for belief. If I can Poe my way into the NRA along with a couple million of my friends, how would they know?

    Seems to me the issue should be whether or not the policy of the school is consistent with the Constitution, and then whether it is consistent with itself.

  2. Yes it does, and passing such a test with a simple lie would not be difficult these days as we all know (or SHOULD know) what the hot button issues are. And indeed, what would be the consequences in this case for falsely asserting to belief. For a non-believer, none. Requiring an assertion as such presupposes the veracity of said assertion; thus rendering it irrelevant. Seems silly to me…

    That all notwithstanding, I feel you’re correct about what the meat of the issue is here. Consistency. My sense from the article and from a very brief scan on the Wiki page is that the university is NOT consistent with a strict constructionist reading of the Constitution. It may be aiming for the spirit though, and that is a worthy effort. There also seems to be some question as to whether there were some background policy changes happening as this issue arose. We shall see.