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December 7, 2004


Put patriotism first

The nation's colleges and universities won a skirmish with the U.S. military last week. A federal appeals court threw out a law that allowed the government to withhold federal funds from colleges that barred military recruiters from campus.

So the nation's institutions of higher learning -specifically the 25 law schools that challenged the law and the military's 2002 decision to enforce it - can now ban recruiters without risking the loss of federal funds.

We understand the court's reasoning. Withholding government money in these cases is heavy-handed and chilling.

But there's a larger issue here, a troubling one. Why do these 25 law schools want to ban the government from recruiting military lawyers on their campuses?

Well, their answer is that all organizations recruiting on campus must agree to the schools' nondiscrimination policies. And, the law schools said, the military's "don't ask/don't tell" policy on gays amounts to discrimination against homosexuals. Therefore, no military recruiters allowed.

But aren't there overriding issues here? Issues that revolve around patriotism, the military's unique role and the defense of this country?

These 25 law schools are apparently willing to shunt aside those issues in order to make a rather academic point about the military's position on gays. It seems arrogant and out of touch to us, particularly at a time when the nation faces some pressing national-defense issues.

We like the way the one dissenting judge put it in the 2-1 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision. Judge Ruggero John Aldisert said that the schools, "as an academic exercise," were ignoring the consequences of banning military recruiters.

"We cannot conclude that the mere presence of a uniformed military recruiter permits or compels the inference that a law school's anti-discrimination policy is violated. The subjective idiosyncratic impressions of some law students, some professors, or some anti-war protesters are not the test. What we know as men and women we cannot forget as judges," Aldisert wrote.

This nation - including its college campuses - sleeps safely at night because of the men and women in our military. That should carry more weight than an academic argument about the military's "don't ask/don't tell" policy. The schools have a right to ban the recruiters - but that does not mean they should. Patriotism should trump campus politics.