Several weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges of being a Christian and a conservative at Yale Law School. A few days ago, the law school decided to double down and prove my point.
After the Yale Federalist Society invited an attorney from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a prominent Christian legal group, to speak about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, conservative students faced backlash. Outlaws, the law school’s LGBTQ group, demanded that Yale Law School “clarify” its admissions policies for students who support ADF’s positions. Additionally, Outlaws insisted that students who work for religious or conservative public interest organizations such as ADF during their summers should not receive financial support from the law school.
On March 25, one month after the controversy, Yale Law School announced via email that it was extending its nondiscrimination policy to summer public interest fellowships, postgraduate public interest fellowships, and loan forgiveness for public interest careers. The school will no longer provide financial support for students and graduates who work at organizations that discriminate on the basis of “sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”
Yale based its decision on a unanimous recommendation from the school’s Public Interest Committee. The committee explained: “The logic of our broader recommendation is that Yale Law School does not and should not support discrimination against its own students, financially or otherwise. Obviously, 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.”
The law school also thanked Outlaws for raising this issue.
Too Vague and Broad
Conservative students who read the announcement were outraged. At first glance, the policy looks like it applies to organizations with disfavored policy positions. A student working for ADF, for example, would not receive school funding because ADF advocates for natural marriage.
In private emails to students, however, the Yale administration has been presenting a narrower explanation of the new policy. The school’s funding restrictions will only apply to organizations with disfavored hiring practices.
While admitting that there are still many details to be worked out, Yale currently says it envisions a self-certification process for employers. For a Yale student to receive a summer public interest fellowship, the employer must certify that it is in compliance with Yale’s nondiscrimination policy. If an organization does not self-certify, then the student will receive no financial support from the law school.
For organizations like ADF, this presents a problem. ADF employees must sign a statement of faith in which they affirm—among other principles—the Christian sexual ethic. This ethic teaches that “all forms of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, polygamy, polyandry, bestiality, incest, pornography, and acting upon any disagreement with one’s biological sex) are sinful and offensive to God.”
When asked specifically about ADF, Yale officials claimed they do not know enough about ADF’s hiring practices to make a determination. However, they admitted that if ADF does not certify that it will comply with Yale’s policy, then students working for ADF will be ineligible for public interest fellowships and the loan forgiveness program.
Discriminating Against Christians Is Totally Acceptable
When questioned about this new policy, Yale officials act puzzled as to why religious and conservative students and alumni are so worried. There are several reasons to be concerned.
First, Yale’s only assurances that the policy will be limited to hiring practices, and not applied to policy positions, are private emails sent to individual students. This is not enough. What ultimately matters is the text of the policy. Behind-the-scenes promises about how the policy will be interpreted and applied are not binding. The law school’s public position is too vague.
Second, even if this new policy is limited to hiring practices, it’s still deeply troubling. The policy was obviously a response to ADF. Yale made this clear when it thanked Outlaws for raising this issue, which was in the context of a protest against ADF. And in announcing the new policy, Yale said, “while the law governing nondiscrimination against LGBTQ people is subject to contestation, the Law School’s commitment to LGBTQ equality is not.”
Without naming ADF, Yale has found a roundabout way to functionally blacklist them and other organizations that do not adhere to Yale’s progressive understanding of gender identity. Law students and graduates will still receive funding to work at organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union that defend abortion, for example. But if students and graduates want to work for ADF or other similarly situated religious or conservative organizations, they will get no help.
Finally, Yale has already caved to one progressive demand by restricting financial support for conservative students. Who is to say that the school will not cave again and start denying admission to conservative applicants? There were certainly calls among the student body to do so. Progressive students are attempting to shrink the Overton Window of reasonable public discourse, and Yale seems all too willing to comply.
I still believe that there is plenty of good at Yale. As Justice Kavanaugh said, we should all strive to be “on the sunrise side of the mountain.” I am incredibly lucky to be here and am determined to leave this school without any anger or bitterness. But they’re making it hard.