Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Univ. Can't Discriminate Against Christians: Fed. Judge

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled Wednesday that University of Wisconsin-Madison officials violated the First Amendment by refusing to fund events of a student Catholic organization while providing funding for the events of other student organizations.

-- From "U. of Wisconsin Cannot Exclude Religious Group From Student Fees, Court Says" by Eric Kelderman, Chronicle of Higher Education 9/1/10

Upholding a federal district court's decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found, in a 2-1 ruling, that the university could not exclude the group, Badger Catholic, from receiving student fees for activities such as worship, proselytizing, and religious instruction.

The appeals court noted that the university had defended its policy of "paying for student activities without regard to the speakers' perspectives" in a 2000 case, University of Wisconsin v. Southworth, that was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Although the university promised the Supreme Court in Southworth to distribute funds without regard to the content and viewpoint of the students' speech, it has concluded that this promise does not apply to speech that constitutes the practice of religion," wrote Judge Frank H. Easterbrook for the majority.

But citing the lower-court ruling, Judge Easterbrook concluded that giving money to a student group that engages in religious activities does not violate the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "7th Circuit: U. of Wis.-Madison cannot deny funding to Catholic student group" by Alliance Defense Fund 9/1/10

In its opinion, the 7th Circuit concluded that “the University of Wisconsin is not propagating its own message; it has created a public forum where the students, not the University, decide what is to be said. And having created a public forum, the University must honor the private choice…. [A] university cannot shape Badger Catholic’s message by selectively funding the speech it approves, but not the speech it disapproves. Once it creates a public forum, a university must accept all comers within the forum’s scope.”

The court also pointed out that the recent decision from the U.S. Supreme Court in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez does not contradict--but instead reinforces--the 7th Circuit’s conclusion in this case.

“There can be no doubt after Christian Legal Society that the University’s activity-fee fund must cover Badger Catholic’s six contested programs, if similar programs that espouse a secular perspective are reimbursed,” the court wrote.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.