Rich Tucker

Attention Harvard Law students: The U.S. Army wants you. Oh, and your counterparts at Yale, New York University and other leading law schools. Sadly, your professors don?t want you to know that.

Here?s the background. In 1997, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Solomon-Pombo Amendment, which withholds federal funding from institutions that won?t allow military recruiters the same access to students that private recruiters enjoy.

That makes sense. There?s no reason for the government to provide research grants or other funding to universities if the schools prevent the government from having the same access to students that representatives from Microsoft or IBM have.

But our top law schools don?t see it that way. Twenty-six of them formed the ?Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights? and sued the government, claiming the amendment violates their First Amendment rights.

The schools object to the military?s policy that bans openly homosexual people from serving. They claim the military is discriminatory and that they need to ban discriminatory groups from campus. If they?re not allowed to do so, well, the schools say that?s a violation of their right to free speech.

Think about that -- the schools believe that, unless they?re allowed to bar the speech of military recruiters, their own right to free speech has been violated.

A U.S. district court waved aside the suit in 2003, noting,

The Solomon Amendment does not unconstitutionally infringe Plaintiff?s free speech and associational rights. Even when considered against the background of academic freedom, the alleged intrusion on Plaintiff?s speech and associational rights fall short of a constitutional violation.

The schools, unfortunately, were undeterred. They appealed to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed the lower court. By a 2-1 decision, that court ruled that the amendment is a violation of the schools? free speech. ?Mere incantation [by the government] of a need for legal talent cannot override a clear First Amendment impairment,? the court wrote.

This is ironic, because the government?s policy isn?t about restricting speech; it?s about encouraging it. It?s the schools themselves that are attempting to shut people up. As the NYU student newspaper put it in a Feb. 3 editorial, ?Our university made it clear that we do not want recruiters here when we won a lawsuit in district court barring them from campus.?

That sentiment is surely the minority view. For example, in Congress the Solomon amendment is so popular that just this week, the House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution in favor of it by a vote of 327-84.

Rich Tucker

Rich Tucker is a communications professional and a columnist for