Congress challenges recruiter ban

For Yale law students who spent last week celebrating the Law School’s decision to bar military recruiters from campus, recent developments in Congress indicate that the battle is far from over.

The day after the Yale Law School announced its decision in response to a ruling by a Connecticut District Court in favor of Yale faculty members, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for the government to appeal a separate Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision which also said that universities can restrict recruiters.

U.S. Rep. John Kline of Missouri, a supporter of the resolution and a member of the military personnel panel of the House Armed Services Committee could not be reached for comment, but said in a press release that he hopes the resolution will work to put an end to the “injustice” of the ruling against the Solomon Amendment and restore the ability of the U.S. military service to effectively serve its citizens.

“The citizens of the United States benefit from the protection of the most highly qualified and well-trained military,” Kline said in the press release.

The measure was passed with overwhelming support in the house with a vote of 327 to 84.

At Yale, opponents of the Solomon Amendment — a national law that suspends federal funding to colleges which block Department of Defense recruiters from campus — said the resolution, although disheartening, will not have an immediate effect on Yale’s policy towards recruiters.

Adam Sofen LAW ’05, a plaintiff in Yale’s student suit, said he was not surprised by Congress’ action.

“A conservative Congress passed it in the first place and a similar one is trying to save it from its constitutional flaws,” he said.

Opponents of the resolution said it does not have any legal force and was merely a response to the Third Circuit’s decision for the case brought by a coalition of law school professors, not affiliated with Yale, against the Defense Department — the Yale faculty and student suits fall in the Second Circuit.

Boston College professor Kent Greenfield, President of the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, a mostly anonymous coalition of law schools and law faculty, said the case is most likely on its way to the Supreme Court.

“It looks like the Supreme Court will take our case or Yale’s case and this resolution does not affect that,” said Greenfield, a leading plaintiff in the Third Circuit suit.

Society of American Legal Teachers President Michael Rooke-Ley, another plaintiff in the original suit in the Third Circuit Court, said that last Wednesday’s congressional resolution was a political response to the Third Circuit’s decision.

“During this apparent war, the patriotic fervor is pretty high and this is an easy target for it,” he said.

Rooke-Ley predicted that in time, Congress members will have a chance to examine the court’s opinions and realize that the Solomon Amendment infringes on constitutional rights.

A Department of Defense spokesperson said that the government is not looking for special treatment or to suppress free speech, but it wants only to be allowed to compete on an even playing ground for university graduates.

“Congress passed the Solomon amendment as a matter of fairness in military recruiting,” a spokesperson said in an e-mail yesterday. “In abiding by the Solomon amendment, the Defense Department is simply abiding by the law of the land.”

The Department of Defense spokesperson said that the Department is grateful to Congress for defending the amendment and it will continue to enforce the Solomon amendment whenever legally possible.

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