The House of Delegates yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 73-27. The bill already passed the Senate, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature, along with its House companion, HB 1617. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, in the name of "tolerance," a few universities in Virginia have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which prevent these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Under these policies, student groups recognized by the university, receiving funding or using the facilities are prohibited from having any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group! Never mind that the funding comes from and facilities paid for their tuition, taxes and student fees.
Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bills allow student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding." Such a position implies that simply choosing to freely associate with people of similar ideas and beliefs is inherently discriminatory. Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as with other freedoms in recent years, have been reduced.
The House yesterday rejected an attempt on the floor to amend the bill with unnecessary language. Upon the governor's signature, Virginia will become only the second state in the nation to provide these protections for student groups.
Please e-mail Senator Obenshain to thank him for his leadership on this bill this year! His official Senate e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org