Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Catholics Win vs. Univ. Wisconsin: Supreme Court

A Catholic student group, persecuted by the University of Wisconsin, has finally won its religious liberty lawsuit as the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling against the university for "viewpoint discrimination."

For background, read Univ. Can't Discriminate Against Christians: Fed. Judge

-- From "Supreme Court won't hear UW-Madison appeal" by The Associated Press 3/7/11

The decision by the high court effectively ends UW-Madison's appeal process. The university has argued that its funding of Badger Catholic's religious activities is a violation of the First Amendment.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed in a 2-1 decision last September. The court ruled UW-Madison's refusal to fund the group's religious worship activities or materials constituted viewpoint discrimination by the university.

UW-Madison settled another lawsuit from the group in 2007 after refusing to pay for any of the group's activities.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Supreme Court rejects appeal in student fee case" by Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, USA TODAY 3/8/11

A coalition of higher education groups backed Madison in the case and urged the Supreme Court to take the case, arguing without success that the lower court's decision intruded on reasonable university rules designed to protect the separation of church and state. By rejecting the appeal, the Supreme Court does not endorse the lower court's ruling, but ensures that it remains in effect in the states covered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit — Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

A 2-to-1 ruling by the appeals court in that circuit last year took away the right of Wisconsin, and potentially other public colleges and universities, to support some student activities while denying funds to organizations for worship services, proselytizing, or other activities that explicitly involve the practice of religion. Wisconsin's rules permitted the funding of many activities organized and run by religious student groups. But the rules barred activities related to prayer or proselytizing. Among the activities that Wisconsin told a Roman Catholic group could not be financed (leading to the litigation) were summer training camps with Roman Catholic Masses, a program to bring nuns to campus to help students determine if they have the calling to be priests, and the distribution of Rosary booklets.

The majority opinion from the appeals court said that once a state university supports student activities that involve leadership development or counseling, it can't exclude some activities simply because they are religious in nature.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Catholic Student Group Wins Legal Battle With University of Wisconsin" by Dave Bohon, The New American Magazine 3/9/11

The student group filed suit against the university, arguing that its denial violated the group’s First Amendment guarantee of free speech rights. The university contended that funding an organization that provides religious training and worship services amounted to a government endorsement of religion.

Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which represented the Catholic group, called the High Court’s decision “a great victory for religious liberty,” explaining the ruling emphasized that the university must treat “religious groups the same as secular student groups when it’s distributing money for these groups to advocate their ideas on campus.” He said the ruling demonstrates the skewed thinking of schools that assumes “there’s somehow a constitutional prohibition on funding private religious groups on the same terms and conditions as everybody else.”

Lorence said that the constitutional guarantees of students in Christian organizations “should be recognized by university officials just as they recognize those rights for other student groups. The university funded the advocacy and expression of other student organizations but singled out a Catholic student organization to exclude funding some of its expression based purely upon its religious content, and that’s simply not constitutional.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

Also read Supreme Court Ends Christian Witness on Campus