Yesterday, I was reading the Sunday newspaper when something on the cover of Parade Magazine caught my eye. “Can Campus Religious Groups Exclude Non-Believers?” was on the right hand corner of the magazine. Curious, I decided to find & read this article.
The article (you can read it here), talks about the fight between the student organization Christian Legal Society and the University of California Hastings College of the Law. CLS was denied recognition due to the fact that CLS violated their nondiscrimination policy. The institution’s stance is summed up with this quote:
“Religious groups on campus have a choice,” says Ethan Schulman, a lawyer representing the school. “If they want to be eligible to receive public funds and access to facilities, they cannot discriminate in selecting members and officers. If they wish to discriminate, they can continue to meet, but without the benefit of public funds and support.”
Just to put any biases out there, I’m not a religious person so I approach this issue from that angle. I think it’s great that this law school is holding it’s ground if that’s what they think it right.
When I was at the University of Arizona, it was interpreted differently. They took the stance that religious organizations were entitled to facilities as well as funding. However, the funding could not be used for proselytizing. I thought this stance was fine: I was fine that we gave equal access to all organizations regardless of their beliefs. However, after seeing religious organizations request club funding, it was really hard to interpret what was or was not proselytizing. After all, the majority of these groups were about religious/spiritual development & actively recruited new members.
Now, I am at a new institution that has just started a lot of it’s campus life opportunities and one of those being funding for student organizations. They haven’t started their first meeting yet (it’s a couple of weeks away) but what precedent will we be taking on this matter? I know what my bosses will say (see what everyone else does) but I’d like for us to just make our own choice and stick with it. Besides, haven’t we always said “just because everyone else does it, doesn’t mean it’s good” to each other?
I’m personally on the fence with the funding part. I’m okay with them having rooms to meet and access to other areas to recruit because while I don’t agree with them on a moral level, it is not my right as a rule maker to say that one organization is okay while the other is not – that doesn’t mean that if they do anything that I find to be against our policies, they won’t be held accountable. Then there’s the whole “free speech zone” topic but that’s a bridge I’ll cross when I need to (students here don’t seem to be interested in protesting or other activities that require the use one a free speech zone – yet at least).
If I had to make a choice right now, I would say that they shouldn’t have access to funds. As a state institution, there must remain some separation between us and religious affiliated student orgs. Right now, there is only one religous organization on campus and I must admit that I really don’t know what they do. I should get on that.
What are others doing? I’d love to hear how peers approach this.