On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a priority bill of The Family Foundation, SB 1074, patroned by Senator Mark Obenshain (R-26, Harrisonburg). This bill will protect the rights of religious and political college student groups at public universities to choose members and leadership based on their beliefs and principles.
Participating in groups and organizations with missions that match their religious or political beliefs is a longstanding tradition for college students. Unfortunately, some universities around the country have begun enacting so-called “all-comers” policies, which essentially prohibits these student organizations from establishing criteria for their membership and leaders. Consequently, a student group that is recognized by the university and receives funding — from their own student activity fees — or use of facilities, could not have any kind of requirement that members or leaders actually share the beliefs or believe in the mission of the group!
Free association is a foundational constitutional principle but, as we know, those kinds of freedoms slowly are being reduced. Incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld “all-comers” policies as constitutional, though it didn’t require universities to have them. SB 1074 will ensure that the current policy of the majority of Virginia’s public universities will continue.
The only opposition to the legislation that we are aware of is from, predictably, the ACLU, which argued against the bill by stating, in essence, that it views free association as inherently discriminatory. It also argued that religious groups shouldn’t be allowed to receive “recognition” from state funded universities because they “discriminate” based on their views of human sexuality. We have worked with representatives of various Virginia universities to ensure that they are not opposed to the bill.