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Ted Cruz threatens legal action against Yale Law School for policy that 'blacklists Christian organizations'
by Jerry Dunleavy | April 04, 2019 10:12 AM
Sen. Ted Cruz is opening an investigation into Yale Law School for what he claims is discrimination against students with "traditional Christian views" and threatened legal action if they do not cooperate.
The Texas Republican sent a letter, dated Thursday, to Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken notifying her that he will investigate a new law school policy which Cruz said stems from “unconstitutional animus and a specific discriminatory intent both to blacklist Christian organizations and to punish Yale students whose values or religious faith lead them to work there.” Cruz believes that Yale's policy change could deny financial assistance to students based on the religious affiliation of the organization for which they choose to work.
Cruz warned Yale “the investigation may include a subpoena… or a referral to the Department of Justice for action against the school" and said that the letter was “notice of [Yale’s] obligation to take reasonable steps to retain all … information relevant to this investigation and potential litigation.”
Earlier this year, a conservative group promoted a conservative speaker on campus, prompting a backlash from a number of liberal groups. One of those groups, an LGBT advocacy organization called the Outlaws, demanded to know why conservative students were eligible for school funding during the summer or after graduation to work for conservative organizations that the Outlaws believed discriminate against them.
In a two-page letter sent on behalf of the Senate Judiciary’s Constitution Subcommittee, of which he's chairman, Cruz described Yale's recent policy to "no longer provide any stipends or loan repayments for students serving in organizations professing traditional Christian views or adhering to traditional sexual ethics” as "transparently discriminatory."
The policy applies to summer public interest fellowships, postgraduate public interest fellowships, and the types of public interest careers for which students receive loan forgiveness for the school.
Yale's dean previously said a committee had decided "unanimously" that Yale’s nondiscrimination policy extends to Summer Public Internship Fellowship program, its Career Options Assistance Program, and post-graduate fellowships. In the summer of 2018, Yale spent $1.8 million on its Summer Public Internship Fellowship program, helping financially support dozens of Yale students "working in public interest, government, and not-for-profit organizations." In just 2017, Yale provided $5.2 million in educational loan payment assistance to hundreds of graduates "who choose lower paying positions."
Cruz's letter raises the concern that those millions of dollars of assistance could now be unavailable to certain students or graduates based on the religious affiliation of the group for which they might choose to work.
Cruz said Yale’s new policy was apparently motivated by a desire “to blacklist Christian organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom and to punish Yale students whose values or religious faith lead them to work there.” The ADF is an openly Christian legal nonprofit that says its mission is protecting "religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” The ADF's Blackstone Legal Fellowship is popular among some conservative law students.
Then.-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., attacked then-7th Circuit judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett in 2017 for speaking to students in the Blackstone program.
The controversy on Yale’s campus seems to stem from a lawyer from the ADF being invited to campus in February of this year. In an article for The Federalist, Yale law student Aaron Haviland wrote that he and his friends “sent out a school-wide email announcement about a guest speaker event for the upcoming week. A lawyer from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Christian legal group that has won numerous First Amendment cases at the Supreme Court, would be discussing Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.”
“Given that ADF has been smeared as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, we expected some controversy. But what we got was over-the-top even by Yale standards. The first condemnation was from Outlaws, the law school’s LGBTQ group. They attacked the Federalist Society for inviting ADF to campus and called for a boycott of the event. Over the next 24 hours, almost every student group jumped onto the bandwagon and joined the boycott,” Haviland said.
Outlaws sent out a schoolwide email on Feb. 24, saying in part: “We are asking the Yale Law School administration to clarify its SPIF [Summer Public Internship Fellowship] and admissions policies regarding organizations that discriminate against members of its community."
"Will students be able to receive SPIF funding to push discriminatory agendas during their summers?” Outlaws asked.
On Feb. 25, Outlaws sent out another email, saying: “Let's call a spade a spade: ADF is a hate group that does not belong on our campus and does not deserve legitimization.”
In the wake of these complaints, Yale Law School said it was changing its policies related to school stipends for students who wanted to spend their summers working for organizations that the school felt violated their nondiscrimination rules.
On March 25, in an email explaining the change in policy, Gerken said: "We appreciate the leadership of Outlaws for raising the issue of applicability of our nondiscrimination policy to student employment opportunities funded by the Law School... We reaffirm our commitment that these [LGBTQ] students, faculty, and staff should not experience discrimination inside or outside of this Law School."
She continued: “The Law School cannot prohibit a student from working for an employer who discriminates, but that is not a reason why Yale Law School should bear any obligation to fund that work, particularly if that organization does not give equal employment opportunity to all of our students.”
In his letter, Cruz told the dean: "If Yale Law School decides to alter its position and cease discriminating against religious students and organizations, please let me know."
Cruz's letter reminds the school to preserve any and all records related to its policy change, including any communications about Outlaws, ADF, or religious discrimination.
Cruz told the school that “federal civil rights laws prohibit discrimination based on religious faith” and that “as a recipient of federal funds, Yale is obligated to comply with these protections.”
In addition to the school allegedly violating laws against religious discrimination, Cruz also pointed to Yale's own equal opportunity statement, where the school promises its students that it will comply with both state and federal rules and will not discriminate against anyone based on religion.
In investigating Yale Law School's new policy, there are a number of actions that the Senate Judiciary’s Constitution Subcommittee could take. A subpoena would require the approval of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Beyond subpoenas and litigation, the subcommittee could hold public hearings with Yale Law students who would want to work at or be involved with religious-affiliated organizations who would be affected by Yale’s new policy, as well as with other groups and leaders at Yale Law School.
If the Trump administration decides to get involved, it would likely be through the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, which handles dozens of religious discrimination cases every year.
“The First Amendment protects both free speech and the Free Exercise of religion. Yale’s new policy does neither,” Cruz said.
LIBERTY HAS NO EXPIRATION DATEDemocrats wouldn't buy a clue if it was government subsidized.
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