A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court decision was handed down Monday in Chief Justice John Roberts’ first case to deal with the First Amendment, affirming the right of the federal government to withhold funding from schools that do not allow military recruiters access to students.
The Supreme Court upheld the right of the federal government to withhold money from public universities that do not allow military recruiters the same access to students as other employers. Dealing with the 1996 Solomon Amendment, Rumsfeld v. FAIR has been a topic of debate since its inception.
This case gives further insight into the Roberts court, said David Hudson, a research attorney for the First Amendment Center.
“This case addressed many First Amendment issues. Although the Court ruled against all of the challenges by the plaintiff, it was a well-reasoned and well-written opinion,” he said.
The decision was expected by most in the law community, said Dale Carpenter, a professor at the University’s Law School.
“The oral arguments in December foreshadowed this outcome,” Carpenter said.
The law faculty voted last March to join the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, or FAIR. This organization of law schools opposes the Solomon Amendment and
was one of the plaintiffs in the case. The University’s Law School was not involved in the lawsuit.
FAIR contends that the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional because it violates First Amendment rights, including free speech. The military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, some said, is prejudiced against homosexuals.
Although military recruiters are allowed in the Law School, signs stating the school’s stance on the Solomon debate are posted outside rooms used for recruitment.
Second-year law student Andrew Borene — who served in Iraq and is running for Senate District 41, DFL — said this practice stigmatizes recruiting efforts on campus.
“Don’t restrict military recruiters from access to good people,” he said. “It is important to maintain a strong military. Attacking recruiters will not resolve the underlying problems with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ ”
The ruling will not change practices by either the Law School or recruiting officers on the University’s campus.
Capt. Tim Kemp, ROTC recruiting officer and military science professor, said the ruling will not affect ROTC recruiting tactics.
“Since nothing changed with the Solomon Amendment, nothing will be changing with our routine,” he said.
The Law School might still host forums on military discrimination and post bulletins outside rooms where recruiters are conducting interviews.
“The Supreme Court made it clear that law schools
can call attention to and criticize military practices. However, if they do not allow recruiters equal access to their students, they will not receive federal funding,” Carpenter said.