Friday, April 12, 2013

Virginia Governor McDonnell Signs "Student Group Protection Act"

Bob McDonnell has done some bone-headed things over the last year-and-a-half to cost him FOREVER my once very outspoken devotion and support, but this outstanding action in support of religious liberty is NOT among them:

Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that prohibits public colleges from requiring student groups to adhere to so-called “all-comers” policies.

The Student Group Protection Act is designed to ensure freedom of association on campuses, said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mark D. Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg.

The new law gives religious or political student organizations at public institutions the right to define their doctrines. To the extent allowed by law, they also can limit membership to students committed to their missions.

The ACLU of Virginia and some student leaders had urged McDonnell to veto the bill, saying they feared it would allow groups to discriminate based on religion or sexual orientation.

However, the Family Foundation of Virginia praised McDonnell for signing what it called a common-sense measure that protects religious liberties.

The ACLU said the legislation was an effort to override a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a university’s right to require student organizations to abide by nondiscrimination policies. The ruling came in a challenge by a conservative Christian group in California that excluded gay and lesbian students.
This would mean that my alma mater, the University of Virginia, itself once a litigant in one of the most important Supreme Court cases in the area of student organizations and the First Amendment freedoms of speech, association, and religion, will be unable to, for example, deny official status to campus organizations who limit their membership to those who follow a set of religious tenets.

Writing at The American Catholic, The Motley Monk contrasts this approach with that taken by certain Jesuit institutions of higher learning such as Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Fordham:
Wouldn’t it be ironic if secular universities officially recognize Knights of Columbus councils as student clubs while Catholic universities—like Gonzaga, Georgetown, and Fordham—don’t because administrators have determined that the organization is discriminatory and noninclusive?

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