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MARSHALL, J., concurring in judgment
496 U. S.
dents are capable of engaging in wide-ranging discussion of sensitive and controversial speech, the inclusion of religious groups in Westside's forum would confirm the school's commitment to nondiscrimination. Here, though, the Act requires the school to permit religious speech in a forum explicitly designed to advance the school's interest in shaping the character of its students.
The comprehensiveness of the access afforded by the Act further highlights the Establishment Clause dangers posed by the Act's application to fora such as Westside's. The Court holds that “[o]fficial recognition allows student clubs to be part of the student activities program and carries with it access to the school newspaper, bulletin boards, the public address system, and the annual Club Fair.” Ante, at 247 (citing App. 434-435). Students would be alerted to the meetings of the religion club over the public address system; they would see religion club material posted on the official school bulletin board and club notices in the school newspaper; they would be recruited to join the religion club at the school-sponsored Club Fair. If a school has a variety of ideological clubs, as in Widmar, I agree with the plurality that a student is likely to understand that “a school does not endorse or support student speech that it merely permits on a nondiscriminatory basis.” Ante, at 250. When a school has a religion club but no other political or ideological organizations, however, that relatively fine distinction may be lost.
Moreover, in the absence of a truly robust forum that includes the participation of more than one advocacy-oriented group, the presence of a religious club could provide a fertile ground for peer pressure, especially if the club commanded support from a substantial portion of the student body. Indeed, it is precisely in a school without such a forum that intolerance for different religious and other views would be most dangerous and that a student who does not share the religious beliefs of his classmates would perceive "that religion or a particular religious belief is favored or preferred.”
MARSHALL, J., concurring in judgment
Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U. S., at 70 (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in judgment).
The plurality concedes that there is a “possibility of student peer pressure,” ante, at 251, but maintains that this does not amount to “official state endorsement.” Ibid. This dismissal is too facile. We must remain sensitive, especially in the public schools, to “the numerous more subtle ways that government can show favoritism to particular beliefs or convey a message of disapproval to others.” County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U. S. 573, 627–628 (1989) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). When the government, through mandatory attendance laws, brings students together in a highly controlled environment every day for the better part of their waking hours and regulates virtually every aspect of their existence during that time, we should not be so quick to dismiss the problem of peer pressure as if the school environment had nothing to do with creating and fostering it. The State has structured an environment in which students holding mainstream views may be able to coerce adherents of minority religions to attend club meetings or to adhere to club beliefs. Thus, the State cannot disclaim its responsibility for those resulting pressures.
Given these substantial risks posed by the inclusion of the proposed Christian club within Westside's present forum, Westside must redefine its relationship to its club program. The plurality recognizes that such redefinition is necessary avoid the risk of endorsement and construes the Act accordingly. The plurality holds that the Act "limits participation by school officials at meetings of student religious groups,' ante, at 251 (citing $$ 4071(c)(2) and (3)), and requires religion club meetings to be held during noninstructional time, ibid. (citing $ 4071(b)). It also holds that schools may not sponsor any religious meetings. Ante, at 253 (citing $ 4072(2)). Fi
STEVENS, J., dissenting
496 U. S.
nally, and perhaps most importantly, the plurality states that schools bear the responsibility for taking whatever further steps are necessary to make clear that their recognition of a religious club does not reflect their endorsement of the views of the club's participants. Ante, at 251.
Westside thus must do more than merely prohibit faculty members from actively participating in the Christian club's meetings. It must fully disassociate itself from the club's religious speech and avoid appearing to sponsor or endorse the club's goals. It could, for example, entirely discontinue encouraging student participation in clubs and clarify that the clubs are not instrumentally related to the school's overall mission. Or, if the school sought to continue its general endorsement of those student clubs that did not engage in controversial speech, it could do so if it also affirmatively disclaimed any endorsement of the Christian club.
III The inclusion of the Christian club in the type of forum presently established at Westside, without more, will not assure government neutrality toward religion. Rather, because the school endorses the extracurricular program as part of its educational mission, the inclusion of the Christian club in that program will convey to students the schoolsanctioned message that involvement in religion develops "citizenship, wholesome attitudes, good human relations, knowledge and skills.” App. 488. We need not question the value of that message to affirm that it is not the place of schools to issue it. Accordingly, schools such as Westside must be responsive not only to the broad terms of the Act's coverage, but also to this Court's mandate that they effectively disassociate themselves from the religious speech that now may become commonplace in their facilities.
JUSTICE STEVENS, dissenting.
The dictionary is a necessary, and sometimes sufficient, aid to the judge confronted with the task of construing an opaque
STEVENS, J., dissenting
Act of Congress. In a case like this, however, I believe we must probe more deeply to avoid a patently bizarre result. Can Congress really have intended to issue an order to every public high school in the Nation stating, in substance, that if you sponsor a chess club, a scuba diving club, or a French club-without having formal classes in those subjects - you must also open your doors to every religious, political, or social organization, no matter how controversial or distasteful its views may be? I think not. A fair review of the legislative history of the Equal Access Act (Act), 98 Stat. 1302, 20 U. S. C. $$ 4071-4074, discloses that Congress intended to recognize a much narrower forum than the Court has legislated into existence today.
I The Act's basic design is easily summarized: when a public high school has a “limited open forum,” it must not deny any student group access to that forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech of the group. Although the consequences of having a limited open forum are thus quite clear, the definition of such a forum is less so. Nevertheless, there is considerable agreement about how this difficulty must be resolved. The Court correctly identifies three useful guides to Congress' intent. First, the text of the statute says that a school creates a limited open forum if it allows meetings on school premises by "noncurriculum related student groups," a concept that is ambiguous at best. Ante, at 237. Second, because this concept is ambiguous, the statute must be interpreted by reference to its general purpose, as revealed by its overall structure and by the legislative history. See ante, at 238–239. Third, the Act's legislative history reveals that Congress intended to guarantee student religious groups access to high school fora comparable to the college forum involved in
For an extensive discussion of the phrase and its ambiguity, see Laycock, Equal Access and Moments of Silence: The Equal Status of Religious Speech by Private Speakers, 81 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1, 36-41 (1986).
STEVENS, J., dissenting
496 U. S.
Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U. S. 263 (1981). Ante, at 235, 239. All of this is common ground, shared by the parties and by every Court of Appeals to have construed the Act.2
A fourth agreement would seem to follow from these three. If “noncurriculum related” is an ambiguous term, and if it must therefore be interpreted in light of congressional purpose, and if the purpose of Congress was to ensure that the rule of Widmar applied to high schools as it did to colleges, then the incidence of the Act in this case should depend upon whether, in light of Widmar, Westside would have to permit the Christian student group to meet if Westside were a college. The characteristics of the college forum in Widmar should thus provide a useful background for interpreting the meaning of the undefined term “noncurriculum related student groups.” But this step the Court does not take, and it is accordingly here that I part company with it.
Our decision in Widmar encompassed two constitutional holdings. First, we interpreted the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to determine whether the University of Missouri at Kansas City had, by its own policies, abdicated discretion that it would otherwise have to make contentbased discriminations among student groups seeking to meet on its campus. We agreed that it had. 454 U. S., at 269; see also id., at 280–281 (STEVENS, J., concurring in judgment). Next, we interpreted the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to determine whether the university was prohibited from permitting student-initiated religious groups to participate in that forum. We agreed that it was
2 Brief for Petitioners 58-59; Brief for Respondents 34-40; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 17-19, and nn. 21–22 (Act codifies Widmar); id., at 22 (“noncurriculum related” is an undefined term); id., at 25 (“noncurriculum related” should be construed by reference to the "larger objectives” of the Act); 867 F. 2d 1076, 1078–1079 (CA8 1989); Garnett v. Renton School Dist. No. 403, 874 F. 2d 608, 613-614 (CA9 1989).
3 We would, of course, then have to consider, as the Court does now, whether the Establishment Clause permits Congress to apply Widmar's reasoning to secondary schools.