Bring Your Moral Outrage to Bear on UW

By on January 19, 2006

Monday’s press release noted the University of Wisconsin’s latest missed chance to abolish once and for all its Eau Claire and Wisconsin campuses’ now-infamous “Bible study bans.” As we pointed out then, a UW committee has ludicrously recommended that the individual campuses be allowed to determine their own policies vis-à-vis Bible studies—which they haven’t exactly done constitutionally so far—and the UW System’s president is seeking public comments on the matter. In accordance with that request, here is what FIRE friend Timothy Michael wrote to UW:

Let’s try a little compare and contrast. The following is a quote from the UW’s Resident Assistant Working Group Final Report:

As a marketplace of ideas and free expression, the University supports the full expression of free speech and other rights of RAs as it does with all employees and students.

Now, let’s look at an example of what is happening in the UW’s “marketplace of ideas and free expression” as it pertains to Christians:

As FIRE revealed late last year, a UWEC administrator sent letters ordering Christian RAs who had been leading weekly Bible studies in their own rooms to cease and desist. The administrator maintained that the private, unofficial Bible studies would make the RAs less “approachable.” Such a statement ignored the fact that UWEC encourages RAs to lead controversial politicized events including The Vagina Monologues, a “Privilege Walk,” a “Tunnel of Oppression,” and seminars promoting feminism.

As long as I am an avid “Vagina Monologues” enthusiast, a “Privilege Walk” participant that meets the requisite levels of disadvantage, or, God forbid, a brainwashed denizen of the Tunnel of Oppression indoctrination program, then an RA at the University of Wisconsin is just the person I would feel comfortable approaching, unless of course they happen to lead a Bible study somewhere.

What kinds of extremes is your organization bent on creating in our society?

Your “right to establish reasonable restrictions” as stated in Principle IV of the RA Report should indeed apply, at least in the case of administrators who fear an outbreak of Christianity if anybody in a position of authority is allowed to express their faith. Yes, I’m sure there are legions of wild-eyed evangelists out there just waiting to infiltrate the ranks of UW RAs in order to perpetrate their nefarious soul-saving schemes under the auspices of University-sanctioned authority.

The RA report states that RAs may conduct meetings, as long as the RA is not abusing his or her authority in encouraging others to attend. However, I submit that leaving the determination of where RAs may hold private meetings to the discretion of individual institutions is merely a convenient way of allowing those institutions to disallow such private meetings by denying a particular group a convenient meeting place.

This e-mail is a great example of the kind of moral outrage that all lovers of liberty ought to bring to bear on UW. Michael points out the awful double standard in UWEC’s actions, the kinds of assumptions it apparently sees fit to make about Christian (and Jewish and Muslim, as Torah and Koran studies are also banned) RAs, and calls on it to do the right thing for a change. Please take a minute to go to the UW feedback form and join Timothy Michael in telling UW to quit trashing the First Amendment!

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire University of Wisconsin – Madison