Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Freedom of complex associations watch

Complex associations are associations-- "intermediate" or "civil society" or "enterprise" in Oakeshott's use of that word-- that themselves contain associations or systems of associations. Examples are the Catholic Church, with its internal orders of many kinds from Opus Dei to Benedictine monasteries to the Jesuits, and universities, with their internal systems of student clubs. Complex associations must decide how wide to set the boundaries of freedom of association for their own internal groups; and their freedom to set terms for their own internal groups is itself part of their own associational freedom. Sometimes there are tricky, nested problems here; sometimes there could be complicated and subtle solutions. And then there's Tennessee.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Lawmakers have given final approval to a bill seeking to rescind Vanderbilt University's "all-comers" policy, which requires school groups to allow any interested students to join and run for office. The Senate approved its version of the bill sponsored by Republican Judiciary Chairwoman Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet on a 19-12 vote on Monday. The House later followed suit on a 61-22 vote. Voting yes were 57 Republicans and three Democrats and one independent. Voting no were 21 Democrats and one Republican. Thirteen members abstained. Christian student leaders have been vocal in opposition, saying their groups shouldn't be forced to admit members, and possibly leaders, who do not share their beliefs. Under the proposal, which is headed to the governor for his consideration, "a religious student organization may determine that the organization's religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group ... qualify to serve as members or leaders. "No state higher education institution may deny recognition or any privilege or benefit to a student organization or group that exercises such rights," according to the proposal.
This is to place the associational freedom of subordinate religious clubs categorically above the freedom of association of the university.