A group of law schools, professors, and students is suing the Department of Defense, alleging that its requirement that law schools allow military recruiters on campus violates the First Amendment. Many universities have barred recruiters, arguing that the military's ban on gay men and lesbians violates nondiscrimination rules. But last year, after the Defense Department threatened to pull federal funding from law schools that deny military recruiters access to students, such schools as Harvard, Boston University, and Boston College backed off their bans.
Kent Greenfield, a Boston College law professor leading the lawsuit, said the government is forcing agreement on its policies from schools that fear the loss of benefits, adding that's "not the American way." The lawsuit also argues that there are flaws in the 1996 law, which permits the Defense Department to deny federal money to institutions of higher learning that restrict military recruiting or ROTC on campus.
The law "was passed to send the message that academic institutions were being too liberal," Greenfield told The Boston Globe. "They are using this law to reach into the core of our educational philosophy and change it, and that's contrary to the First Amendment."
The lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Newark, N.J. Judge John C. Lifland gave the government a week to respond to a request for a restraining order.
The Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, which Greenfield formed to file the lawsuit, declined to release the names of members. Boston College, Harvard, and Boston University are not party to the lawsuit, the Globe reported. The group's board includes professors from Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California. The group filed the suit along with the Society of American Law Teachers, student groups at Boston College Law School, and Rutgers University School of Law and three Rutgers law students.