Victory for Freedom of Religion at University of Wisconsin-Madison
MADISON — A Catholic group could use University of Wisconsin-Madison student fees to print religious booklets and support religious activities under a recommendation by the school’s chancellor on Tuesday.It’s interesting that the secular left believes that, while no taxpayer money can go to support religion, such money can be used to oppose and attack religion.
Chancellor John Wiley said he would endorse $145,000 in funding for the UW Roman Catholic Foundation even though he has concerns it may violate the separation of church and state.
The money, approved by student leaders earlier this year, will be used for running an evangelical ministry, holding prayer groups and printing Lenten booklets and weekly bulletins, among other things, according to the group’s budget request.
Wiley had warned student leaders in an April 4 memo that fees could not be used to support religious activities without violating the separation of church and state.
The Catholic group cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that public universities must award mandatory student fees to student groups without regard to their viewpoints. The group argued not allowing money for religious groups would amount to viewpoint discrimination.
UW-Madison administrators, meanwhile, said they were trying to balance that requirement against the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits public money from being used to support religion.
“The eyes of the academic world are focused on Madison to see how it handles this situation,” said David French of the Alliance Defense Fund, which represents the Catholic group. “It’s one of the first indications in recent years that Christian student groups are no longer content with second-class citizen status on campus.”
UW-Madison attorney Nancy Lynch said Wiley deferred to student leaders’ decision while asking for guidance from the regents, who will likely consider the matter at a meeting next month.
At Madison, student fees can be used to promote sexual promiscuity. And it’s entirely common on college campuses for students fees to fund feminist groups who favor abortion and condemn (for example) an all male priesthood. It’s considered quite alright for “gay rights” groups to take student fee money to condemn Christian teaching on homosexuality.
Of course, one could argue that in this case, money is not merely promoting political positions that Christians happen to hold, but things like prayer groups and evangelical outreach.
But we fail to see how Christian evangelism is any more suspect than attempts to get students to sign on to an environmentalist agenda.
And we fail to see how a prayer group is in any way worse than a feminist “consciousness raising” session. We happen to think it’s a lot better, but a “whatever floats your boat” spirit of tolerance would suggest that both have access to government money.
But for the secular types, “whatever floats your boat” doesn’t apply if what floats your boat is Christianity.