Illustrating an intellectual confusion common among conservative pundits, George Will denounces Vanderbilt University for requiring its own student organizations to follow its non-discrimination policy by not banning gay students.
Will declares, “Whereas it is wrong for government to prefer one religion over another, when private persons and religious groups do so, this is the constitutionally protected free exercise of religion.” So, when a private group (say, a private university) prefers one religion (say, the non-homophobic kind) over another, that would precisely fit Will’s definition of free exercise of religion. In other words, everything Will argues in his column proves the exact opposite of what he claims.
That’s particularly true when 23 members of Congress have written to Vanderbilt demanding that they change their policies on religion. If that’s not government intimidation of a private institution over religious freedom, then what is?
Now, Will has a serious (albeit incorrect) argument to make when he contends that public universities should not require student groups to treat all students equally. But when he claims that a private university should not impose non-discrimination on its student groups because of the principle of private rights, he is being completely incoherent.