It’s not quite college football season, but a touchdown for religious liberty was scored at Virginia Tech recently. While the Hokie team may enjoy its annual pre-season hype (ranked 20th in the nation), the school’s administration suffered a costly fumble of students’ constitutional rights — and had been doing so for years.
Prior to July, the Virginia Tech student activity fee policy prohibited recognized student faith-based organizations from receiving funds for their religious activities. These specifications were made in spite of the fact that all students were required to pay an activity fee. However, the Christian student organizations were singled out and banned from receiving these funds for specific events, even though these students paid into it and were legitimate campus organizations.
This discrimination and encroachment on religious freedom was addressed by Family Foundation ally Alliance Defending Freedom (formerly Alliance Defense Fund), when it drafted a legal memo notifying Virginia Tech of the “constitutional infirmity” in its student fee policy. The controversial clause stated:
[o]rganizations will not be provided funding to support religious worship or religious proselytizing.
Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedents — one, appropriately, from a case involving arch rival U.Va. — ADF strongly encouraged Virginia Tech to rectify its violations of the First Amendment and its discrimination against certain student groups on the basis of religious viewpoint. After Virginia Tech was informed that both the verbiage of its policy and the distributions of the collected activity fees were out of line with the constitution, it removed the clause.
Thanks to organizations such as ADF, which works alongside The Family Foundation to defend our constitutionally protected freedoms, Virginia schools can be held accountable for what they say and do. The previous policy was yet another example of the infringement of Virginia religious liberty rights and why we need to legislatively protect our religious freedom. Virginia colleges and universities need to be reminded that “freedom of thought” cannot be used as a pretense to curtail “freedom of religion.”
Virginia Tech’s blatant anti-religious discrimination came at a time when colleges and universities in other states have denied access to services for Christian student groups unless they implement so-called “all comers” policies, meaning that Christian groups must allow anyone to join and run for leadership positions regardless of whether they agree with the groups’ faith principles — particularly, regarding sexuality. Essentially, groups that have statements of faith regarding monogamy and homosexuality are being attacked for being “discriminatory” and forced off campus. We are looking into just such an action taken by Virginia Commonwealth University to see if that “institution of higher learning” also violated the religious freedom of its students.
The Family Foundation is actively engaged in crafting means by which religious liberty will be further protected on college campuses. Because policies like those seen at Virginia Tech may be in place elsewhere, The Family Foundation is working on and off session to be sure that, like Virginia Tech students, your religious liberty rights are protected. Like a well-trained football team, The Family Foundation is prepared to be your defensive line in the fight for religious freedom.