Are religious groups being discriminated against on campus?
Can a public university deny funding of a religious student organization’s activities if it believes those activities are solely for worship or for the spreading of religious beliefs, rather than for education? Can a college treat a non-religous student organization differently than a religious student organization? This very question is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. In Walsh v Badger Catholic, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on September 1, 2010, that the University of Wisconsin at Madison had acted improperly by denying funding to Badger Catholic, a Roman Catholic student group. Under the principles of the separation of church and state, the university believes that public institutions should not support religious activities. The activities that Badger Catholic wished funding for included attending summertime catholic masses, and bringing nuns to campus to see if any students wanted to become priests. Badger Catholic argues that they should be treated the same as all non-religious organizations and that the First Amendment protects their right to speak freely. Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which works on behalf of religious organizations, criticized the position of the university as “shocking because it is coming from academics who should understand freedom of speech and the value of a marketplace of ideas.” The U.S Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear the case.
What do you think? Should the University of Wisconsin be able to choose which organizations it wants to fund?