An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service
March 07, 2006
With Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion, the court said that colleges that accept federal money - and it's almost all colleges and a lot of money, about $35 billion a year - must allow military recruiters on campus and allow them the same access and facilities as other recruiters.
This ruling should settle a decade-long dispute, going back to 1996 when Congress passed the Solomon amendment in response to the growing practice of law schools barring military recruiters.
The schools did so because their faculties disagree with "don't ask, don't tell," the muddled policy affecting how the military treats gays in its ranks. But this is not something the military came up with on its own; Congress enshrined "don't ask, don't tell" into law in 1993. The law schools' beef is with Congress - made up mostly of lawyers, it's worth noting - and not with the military.
Still, the law schools argued that Solomon violated their rights of speech and free association.
Roberts found that allowing recruiters on campus temporarily for the limited purpose of trying to hire students did not violate the faculty's freedom of association, "regardless of how repugnant the law school considers the recruiter's message."
As for freedom of speech, the chief justice wrote, "Nothing about recruiting suggests that law schools agree with any speech by recruiters, and nothing in the Solomon Amendment restricts what they may say about the military's policies."
In essence, rather than evict the messenger, the faculty should exercise its own right of free speech, and if the legal education is any good, by the third year the law students should be capable of making up their own minds.
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