The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

University bans marijuana advocacy group, religious organization while atheists, pro-choice groups receive funding

A marijuana advocacy group at Northern Illinois University could be effectively banned from the school’s campus, opening up the potential for a First Amendment case against the institute of higher learning. And like smoking weed itself, the case is bringing together several odd coalitions, as questions are being raised about the school’s definition of student organization, which appears to cover pro-choice and antiwar groups but not religious-tolerance organizations and pro-marijuana legalization advocates.

Northern Illinois’ definition of “political and religious” and “social justice, advocacy” groups means organizations like the NIU Atheists, Agnostics, and Free Thinkers; Advocates for Choice; and Campus Antiwar Network have access to funds to promote their causes. Those denied funding include Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations; the Model U.N.; and the Committee for the Preservation of Wildlife.

University students are required to pay a mandatory activity fee, usually administered by the student government, that allows all student groups access to those funds. Once student groups prove they put the funds to good use (such as setting up and promoting educational events), the student government divvies out the fee.

That divvying, however, can’t be as political as the student government appears to have made it.

After first being denied recognition by the university’s Student Association Senate (SAS), the NIU chapter of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) reapplied, only to have the SAS offer a vague statement on the difference between “advocacy” and “political” groups. The SAS’s definition prevents several groups, including the SSDP, from receiving funding from students’ fees. Now, denied a second time for “advocacy” status, the SSDP could be banned entirely from meeting and promoting on campus for two years.

The NIU SSDP chapter is now considering legal action with the help of the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education, if meetings with school administrators this week do not result in alternative outcomes.

“For too long, campuses have utilized hopelessly vague policies that allow them to favor some student groups and kick others off campus,” wrote FIRE president Greg Lukianoff in a press release, later adding that “at a public college like NIU, this kind of double standard is not only unfair but laughably unconstitutional.”

“You can’t say the groups like atheists are allowed to discuss Christianity, but the Christians aren’t,” FIRE President of Programs Adam Kissel told The Daily Caller. “It’s almost random.”

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  • AAFT

    So a few corrections. The atheist group on campus does not receive funding; AAFT is currently considered a religious group, not an advocacy group. The pro-choice group on campus does not receive funding and has been told that under the guidelines they can never receive funding. You also need to justify how NIU does not allow religious tolerence groups. Your article doesnt mention that at all: so i ask you to name one that has been denied like SSPD? Further the statement:“You can’t say the groups like atheists are allowed to discuss Christianity, but the Christians aren’t,” FIRE President of Programs Adam Kissel told The Daily Caller. “It’s almost random.”, is quite inaccurate. There are well over 2 dozen Christian groups on campus. Some, even get funding: like the Northern Black Choir.
    This level of “atheist baiting” is insultingly low brow. We are not “fighting” to keep the Christians down. Nor are we likely to wage a morality war against pot. It would have been possible for you to report what NIU is doing to the SSPD (which if you did research you would find that AAFT supports SSPD) without engaging in slander or emotional appeals.
    The way forward would be to contact the relevant groups and revise your article without the spin. I look forward to your retraction and the new article. Thank you in advance.

    –Chris George, President of the NIU Atheists, Agnostics, and Free Thinkers

    • Liberty for All

      Hoo-ya!

    • jonavark

      Some, even get funding: like the Northern Black Choir.

      well.. hello.

    • Thunderer

      Dear Chris George, President of the NIU Atheists, Agnostics, and Free Thinkers,

      Read the article. It says that AAFT has ACCESS to the funding under the definition granted by NIU, not that AAFT is presently receiving it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Kissel/508359627 Adam Kissel

      Chris: Good to see your comments here. Indeed, AAFT is one of the groups that has been unjustly discriminated against. Under the new definition of “religious” groups, however, “religious” groups are those founded for the purpose of “religious worship.” Presumably this means that AAFT no longer fits the definition and is eligible for funding. Let me just add that this case is not about one student organization vs. another but about (among other things) unconstitutional discrimination by the Student Association. Student organizations in this sense are all on the same “side” with the SA on the other side.

  • gooners

    From the NIU website, student-led religious organizations:

    * Alpha Delta Omega Christian Sorority
    * Alpha Omega NU
    * Athletes In Action
    * A New Dimension Christian Dance Ministry
    * Ambassadors Bible Study
    * Campus Missions International
    * Campus Crusade for Christ
    * CRAVE
    * Elogeme Adolphi Christian Sorority
    * Emmaus Center
    * Hillel
    * Intervarsity Christian Fellowship
    * Jesus is the Way Ministries (Updated Officer Forms Required)
    * Judson Baptist Fellowship
    * Latter Day Saint Student Association
    * Lutheran Campus Ministries
    * Lutheran Student Fellowship
    * Megiste Arete Christian Fraternity, Inc.
    * Muslim Students Association
    * New Dimension Christian Dance Ministry (Suspended)
    * New Hope College Ministries (Suspended)
    * Newman Catholic Student Center
    * NIU Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers
    * Pagan Student Association-NIU
    * Presbyterian Campus Ministry
    * Salvation Army
    * The Navigators
    * Truth and Life
    * Wesley Foundation

    What, exactly, is the problem you are trying to report here?

    • GonePostal

      It seems to come down to the funding of the organizations from student fees. It’s not a very well-reported article (Such a shock from the DC!) and the headling is misleading, as the groups are not being “banned” but are losing funding from the student fees that are supposed to be split evenly and that help these groups put on events and hold meetings. It doesn’t say which religious groups have seen funding cut (again, a terribly reported piece), but the section on SSDP kids losing funding because they are called “political” and not “advocates” is informative. Those definitions that can switch depending on who happens to agree with whatever position is being held. Obviously, the University can’t ban these kids from getting together and discussing issues, but they are pulling funding based on nothing more than their dislike of certain issues, and the student activity funds are not supposed to be handled that way. If this article left the religious stuff out, it would make more sense, as the author does not name any single religious group that has seen it’s student activity funds cut.

      • gooners

        Found a better article:
        http://www.studentfreepress.net/archives/5209

        Seems like the debate isn’t only funding, but also university recognition. Students for Sensible Drug Policy, it seems, are being denied recognition, which limits the activities they can engage in on campus (like posting fliers, it says in the linked article).

        Anyway, Chris George above says it good enough what this article is doing.

    • jonavark

      Great list. But you didn’t rad the article did you? It’s about funding. NOT existence.

    • Liberty for All

      Looks like another anti-non-believer hatchet job. C’mon, DC, you know a lot of us Libatariantards are Darwin types, so stop poking us with dull thai-sticks. Can’t we just agree that too much government sucks, and go back to our seperate corners? Yours in the big governmentesque, imposingly gothic, religous artiface, me, out in the wide open prarie of rational thought and free thinking.

    • Liberty for All

      Looks like another anti-non-believer hatchet job. C’mon, DC, you know a lot of us Libatariantards are Darwin types, so stop poking us with dull thai-sticks. Can’t we just agree that too much government sucks, and go back to our seperate corners? Yours in the big governmentesque, imposingly gothic, religous artiface, me, out in the wide open prarie of rational thought and free thinking.