The student government at Texas A&M University approved a bill in support of students who wish to opt out of having their activities fees pay for groups they deem morally objectionable.
Supporters of the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill” say it does nothing except ask university administrators to give students more say over which groups receive funding.
Some Christian students objected to having their tuition dollars go to the campus’s GLBT Resource Center, which provides counseling to gay students. The group receives about $100,000 a year–about $2 per student, according to KBTX.
In fact, the bill was initially called The GLBT Funding Opt-Out Bill, but the name was changed to deflect criticism that the student senate was discriminating against one particular group that religious students found objectionable.
“It is offensive and unacceptable to mask this discriminatory bill against [the GLBT] community as an issue of religion,” said GLBTA student Kimberly Villa, in a statement. “It is unfair to make our resource an ‘option.’”
The bill’s author, Chris Woolsey, told the student newspaper that he merely thought students deserved more of a say in how their money was spent.
But that rationale may not hold up in court. The Supreme Court has held that public universities cannot deny funding to student groups solely on the basis of their political viewpoints.
“Rosenberger and Southworth establish the principle that a state university or college must distribute funds collected by mandatory student fees in a viewpoint-neutral manner,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s guide to student fees. “State universities and colleges violate the right of free expression guaranteed by the First Amendment if they deny funding to a group because of the viewpoint it advocates, or if they require students to pay into a system whose official policies prohibit religious or political groups from receiving school funding.”
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