So far, 2012 has been a good year for religious liberty in federal court. Two weeks ago the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that religious organizations have a First Amendment right to choose their ministers — even in the face of federal nondiscrimination policies. Today, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial-court ruling that essentially allowed Eastern Michigan University to erect a “no Christians allowed” sign outside its graduate counseling program.
... The trial court had essentially ruled that the university could do whatever it wanted with its curriculum, and if it wanted to mandate that Christian students affirm homosexuality while granting referrals and exemptions to other students on other issues, it could. The Sixth Circuit disagreed, strongly:
A reasonable jury could find that the university dismissed Ward from its counseling program because of her faith-based speech, not because of any legitimate pedagogical objective. A university cannot compel a student to alter or violate her belief systems based on a phantom policy as the price for obtaining a degree.
The stakes of this case were very high. If the university had prevailed, students would truly have been at the mercy of ad hoc ideological demands reformulated as “curricular requirements.” Understanding the stakes for individual liberty, theMichigan attorney general, the American Center for Law and Justice (where I’m a senior counsel), the Becket Fund, Eugene Volokh, and others submitted amicus briefs on Ward’s behalf. They were opposed by, among others, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, LAMBDA Legal, and the ACLU.
You can read the Sixth Circuit opinion here (PDF).