Nor should it matter if the youth leader had been living with his boyfriend in an open homosexual relationship. Although the term sexual orientation would then be invoked – replacing the term “sexual behavior” - it should make no difference to the government. It is not their business. Nor would it change things if the church decided to expel a non-leading member for the same reason.
So how has the government become so involved in governing the affairs of student religious organizations at state-run institutions? The answer lies in the operation of the mandatory student fee system at public universities. Because the government charges fees to all students – even those having no desire to join such groups – it has assumed the role of controlling their inner workings all the way down to dictating the scope of their religious beliefs and their membership policies.
But is the act of taking student money and then returning it only in exchange for control over membership requirements really justified? And does it pass constitutional muster when those organizations are religious in nature?
Those who answer in the affirmative must somehow distinguish between the on-campus and off-campus religious organization if they are to justify controlling the membership of the former but not the latter. They do so by pointing out that churches only receive tax breaks whereas campus organizations seek to obtain supplemental funding for their religious exercise. But that is a distinction without a difference. Those supplemental funds came initially out of the students’ pockets. They are never fully recovered. What is called a mandatory fee is nothing but a direct tax on religious freedom.
Students should be opposed to these mandatory fees for at least three reasons:
1. They raise the cost of education. My university charges nearly one-thousand dollars per semester in these fees. The fee is clearly unjustified.
2. The fees are siphoned off to pay the salaries of university administrators who control reallocation. But they do not fully cover the salaries of those administrators. Thus, they place a burden on taxpayers – even those not attending the universities. And that is wrong.
3. Finally, they give the university a ready justification to control student religious expression as well as student freedom of association.
The UNC-Chapel Hill student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, agrees with my assertion that the university only got the recent Psalm 100 controversy half right. But the part I thought the university got wrong is the part the newspaper thought they got right. In other words, the Daily Tar Heel asserts that the university has the right to prevent religious groups from removing people for their sexual behavior or for their beliefs about sexual behavior.
It is certainly odd that the generation that once protested for more freedom has now taken over the university. It is odder still that they have convinced students to give them money to help them take away the basic freedoms they once championed. To the extent that today’s student protests, he says he wants them to take more. He thus asserts the right to be governed instead of the right to be free.