Recognize legality of school’s new policy
While it may seem like an odd move to the members of our liberal-leaning University, the administration of Catholic University of America (CUA) has decided to institute a same-sex residence hall policy. Predictably enough, the new policy has sparked some criticism of the school, but the strongest outrage has not come from CUA’s own community. Rather, that distinction belongs to John Banzhaf, a lawyer and law professor at George Washington University, who has mounted a lawsuit against the school. He claims that CUA has violated the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act on the grounds that the single-sex residence halls are a clear case of gender discrimination. However, Banzhaf’s claims are a little too radical and miss the point — this isn’t gender discrimination. This is a private Catholic school acting according to its own religious principles.
Banzhaf’s lawsuit would have certainly had solid ground to stand on if CUA were a public school. But, like the university’s name suggests, it is not a government institution: It is a private Catholic school. As such, the school has a right to act according to religious principles, so long as those principles do not violate human rights. In this case, it is pretty clear that they do not. Critics like Banzhaf are quick to throw the “separate but equal” tag at the school for creating same-sex residence halls. However, that accusation does not stick because CUA has legitimate reasons, according to its religious principles, for the segregation. According to CUA president John Garvey, two of the major reasons for the decision were concerns about students binge drinking and engaging in premarital sex. Aside from the fact that these activities are against Catholic doctrine, neither one is a human right. CUA, then, has every right to take steps to discourage these activities. This includes instituting same-sex residence halls.
Banzhaf would do well to realize that his accusations are erroneous and call off the lawsuit. Besides, as a lawyer, aren’t there more important things for him to be worrying about? As of now, he’s raising false red flags and playing the alarmist. We have enough people doing that these days. We don’t need another one.