Madelyn Kumar

In a statement Wednesday, Yale Law School Dean Heather Gerken defended the Law School’s decision last month to extend its nondiscrimination policy to summer and postgraduate public interest funding in response to a probe into the school’s grant distribution policies from Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

Per the policy, the school will not financially support summer or postgraduate public interest fellowships with employers that allegedly discriminate in hiring practices based on gender or sexual orientation.

In a letter to Gerken dated April 4, Cruz announced that he would open an investigation into the Law School’s alleged “unconstitutional animus and specific discriminatory intent” to financially discourage students from working at Christian organizations, specifically those that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation as a result of religion.

In Wednesday’s statement, Gerken explained the timeline, careful consideration and values that the Law School’s nondiscrimination policy represents.

“As has long been the case with federal policy, our policy also will afford accommodations for religious organizations in hiring,” Gerken said, in her statement. “Affording such accommodations is consistent with both anti-discrimination principles and our long and proud tradition of graduates pursuing careers with religiously affiliated organizations.”

Gerken conceded that Cruz could “very well have been unaware of this fact.” Still, she maintained that it was shared with people who asked in advance, even in advance of his letter and other public inquiries.

A spokesman from Cruz’s senatorial office echoed Hawley’s commitment to religious freedom and Cruz’s continued probe in the Law School’s policy.

“Senator Cruz and his staff continue to communicate with a number of Yale Law School students and hear their concerns, and anticipate receiving documents regarding this decision by Yale,” the spokesman said. “Sen. Cruz believes it is a shame that the school’s administration decided to adopt the bigoted, anti-religious animus of YLS campus groups actively calling for anti-Christian discrimination, and he intends to use all federal legal means available to ensure Yale students have adequate religious liberty protections.”

Cruz’s probe came amid concerns from members of the Federalist Society. For example, Aaron Haviland LAW ’19 worried about a culture of “vitriol and cyberbullying” against conservative, Christian students. Duncan Hosie LAW ’21, who is a member of the Outlaws — the Law School’s LGBTQ group — defended the Law School’s commitment to nondiscrimination in an op-ed for the New York Daily News.

On April 10, Cruz went on “Fox News at Night” to discuss the censorship of conservatives. In response to a quote from Hosie’s op-ed that criticized Cruz’s own failure to protect constitutional rights, he said that “it is not surprising to see left-wing activists on universities including Yale who want to censor speech.”

“I was disappointed that Senator Cruz resorted to childish name-calling instead of responding to my arguments,” Hosie told the News. “In my op-ed, I presented a substantive case about the value in a nondiscrimination policy that protects LGBTQ people, and it’s unfortunate that Senator Cruz would evade an intellectual debate to instead dismiss me as a ‘left-wing activist’ and reprise tired bromides from his conservative echo chamber.”

Hosie continued that Cruz’s planned investigation “inflames the political debate” at Yale Law School, and that his depiction of the controversy has been at times “outright false.”

But Cruz is not the only conservative politician to launch inquiries into the Law School’s new policy.

On April 9, Hawley sent letters to Attorney General William Barr and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to revoke federal funding if the Law School continues to “target religious students for special disfavor.”

“Depriving a student of resources available to everybody else because of her religion isn’t just wrong,” Hawley wrote in a statement. “For schools receiving federal funds, it’s illegal.”

Cruz was first elected to the Senate in 2012.

Samuel Turner | samuel.turner@yale.edu