all-comers policies

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

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 district26@senate.virginia.gov

Student Rights Bill Goes To Governor!

The Senate of Virginia yesterday passed a priority for The Family Foundation, legislation that protects the free association rights of students on public college campuses. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), ensures that religious and political organizations will not be discriminated against because of their beliefs and values. The bill passed 21-18 with several Democrats joining Republicans to pass the legislation. The bill already passed the House, so it is now on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell for his signature. 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 (and even more so around the country) have begun enacting the 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 from it or using campus 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!

Opponents to the legislation claimed that the bill allows student groups to "discriminate" using "taxpayer funding" (never mind that many such clubs are funded by activity fees charged to the students in addition to their tuition). 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 we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. The win is so significant that even the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (a bipartisan group of Congressmen) took notice.

The companion Senate legislation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg), should be heard in the House Education Committee tomorrow.

Senate To Vote On Key Religious Liberty Bill!

On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a priority bill of The Family Foundation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). This bill will protect the rights of religious and political college student groups at public universities to choose members and leadership based on their beliefs and principles.

Please contact your Senator now and urge them to vote YES on SB 1074!

Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, some universities around the country have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which essentially prohibits these student organizations from establishing criteria for their membership and leaders. Consequently, a student group that is recognized by the university and receives funding — from their own student activity fees — or use of facilities, could not have any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms slowly are being reduced. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld "all-comers" policies as constitutional, though it didn't require universities to have them. SB 1074 will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia's public universities will continue.

The only opposition to the legislation that we are aware of is from, predictably, the ACLU, which argued against the bill by stating, in essence, that it views free association as inherently discriminatory. It also argued that religious groups shouldn't be allowed to receive "recognition" from state funded universities because they "discriminate" based on their views of human sexuality. We have worked with representatives of various Virginia universities to ensure that they are not opposed to the bill.

Key Votes In House Education Committee On Monday!

Two of The Family Foundation's highest priorities this year will be voted on in the House Education Committee Monday morning. The first, HB 1442, is legislation that would assist home school students in participating in public school sports, often called the "Tebow Bill," and the second, HB 1617, is a bill that protects the rights of college student groups to organize according to their beliefs.

If your delegate is on the House Education Committee, please contact him or her as soon as possible and urge him or her to vote in favor of HB 1617 (student groups) and HB 1442 ("Tebow Bill")!

The home school sports bill, once again this year patroned by Delegate Rob Bell (R-58, Charlottesville), would break down barriers that prevent home school students from playing public high school sports by prohibiting localities from joining the Virginia High School League, a pseudo-state/private entity that regulates public school sports. Under the provisions of the measure, localities would not be able to contract with VHSL if they don't allow home school students to participate. Half the states in the nation have some type of measure that provide opportunities to home school students to participate in public school sports.

The children of families who pay taxes that support the local public schools and are part of our communities, continue to be denied the ability to try out for an activity that they are funding for the simple reason that they are home schooled. This discriminatory practice must end.

A VCU poll released just yesterday for the Commonwealth Education Policy Institute, an education think tank headed by former State Public Education Superintendent Dr. Bill Bosher, indicates that nearly two-thirds of Virginians support fairness for homeschoolers. It receives more than 60 percent support from people in all demographics, incomes, political parties and independents, education levels and regions of Virginia except Hampton Roads, where it is favored by 54 percent. Talk about bipartisanship! 

HB 1617 is a new proposal. Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, some universities around the country have begun enacting so-called "all-comers" policies, which essentially eliminates these groups from being able to set criteria for members and leaders. Consequently, a student group that is recognized by the university and receives funding from student activity fees or use of facilities couldn't have any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!

Free association is a foundational constitutional principle, but as we know, those kinds of freedoms are slowly being reduced. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld "all-comers" policies as constitutional, though it didn't require universities to have them. HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock), will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia's universities will continue.

The only opposition to this bill that we are aware of is the ACLU, which argued against the bill earlier this week in sub-committee. In essence, they view free association as inherently discriminatory. Despite that, the bill passed subcommittee unanimously. We have worked with representatives of various Virginia colleges and universities to ensure that they are not opposed to the bill.