Protecting Against Religious DiscriminationMar 19, 2013
Liberal, secular groups and Virginia's omniscient editorialists are on the offensive, urging Governor Bob McDonnell to veto two priority bills of The Family Foundation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg) and HB 1617, patroned by Delegate Todd Gilbert (R-15, Woodstock). The bills, passed by the General Assembly, will protect the rights of religious and political student groups at public colleges to choose members and leadership based on their beliefs and principles. Please click here to contact Governor McDonnell today and urge him to sign without amendment SB 1074 and HB 1617!
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 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.
SB 1074 and HB 1617 will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia’s universities will continue.
The primary opposition to the bill has been the ACLU which is, unfortunately, misrepresenting the intent of the bills and the law itself. Several of Virginia's newspaper editorial boards, like the Richmond Times Dispatch, have simply parroted the ACLU's talking points. They continue to argue that the bills would “override a U.S. Supreme Court decision” that upheld the constitutionality of all-comers policies. The truth is, however, that while the Court upheld the policies, it did not require the policies on college campuses. The ACLU and its apologists seem to be ignoring two other important Supreme Court cases where the justices ruled that universities cannot discriminate against religiously affiliated student groups on the basis of the content of those groups speech, calling it viewpoint discrimination. To circumvent the Supreme Court, colleges began instating all-comers policies, which essentially mean that student groups can exist as long as they have no viewpoint at all!
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. It is also a position that is in violation of Supreme Court precedent that clearly states these policies must be viewpoint neutral and not single out religious organization's.