The phone lines at Wichita State University (WSU) have apparently been down for well over a decade. At least it appears that way after WSU blatantly violated a twelve-year old Supreme Court ruling in its efforts to curtail religious expression across its state-supported campus. Fortunately, my friend and attorney David French of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) has intervened. He re-established contact with WSU and helped usher them into the 21st Century by slowly explaining the First Amendment to bewildered state officials.
The problem began when WSU enacted a rule that prohibited any "non-scholarly religious" student group from receiving student fee funding. This was nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to defund virtually all religious groups at WSU. Think about it for a second: how many student religious groups do you know of that have a primary interest in “scholarship”? Student religious groups are largely social in nature and usually meet for purposes of evangelism. These groups know that most church-going kids lose their faith – or nearly lose their faith – while in college. So they seek to counter those negative trends with evangelism.
Of course, universities don’t like that. They are engaged in their own process of evangelism. They seek to increase membership in the official university religion known as secular humanism. And that is why they are constantly devising illegal policies and trying to disguise them under false categorical schemes – the kind the Supreme Court has banned under decisions like Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia (1995) and Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System v. Southworth (2000).
The reasoning for the false and illegal scholarly/non-scholarly dichotomy is transparent. Universities rarely stray from restating some form of their ostensible purpose in banning speech that may offend. Here, the idea is that using student fee money to advocate for religion on campus or to engage in worship or other activities might cause others to object (read: to be offended). But so-called scholarly activity, absent evangelism or worship, is unlikely to offend.
But here’s the rub: these rules are confined to religious student groups - as opposed to groups engaged in political, social, and other forms of direct advocacy. And that amounts to the official disfavoring of religion compared to other viewpoints.
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