In non-Columbia-related news, the Alliance Defense Fund has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, which was derecognized by the University of Wisconsin for allowing only Christians to serve as leaders of the group. This case closely resembles another case recently decided by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, whose jurisdiction includes Wisconsin. In Christian Legal Society v. Walker, the appeals court ordered Southern Illinois University to recognize the Christian Legal Society, which was originally dissolved because of a policy banning voting members and leaders from engaging in or approving of premarital sex, adultery, or homosexual sex. In light of this case, it will likely be difficult for the University of Wisconsin to justify its actions in court. It is also important to note that other federal courts have produced rulings similarly favorable to student organizations. Just last month, FIRE’s Will Creeley discussed a case in which a university was ordered to reinstate a fraternity that was kicked off of campus because of its membership policy.
This latest violation of student rights should come as no surprise to loyal Torch readers, as the University of Wisconsin System has an egregious track record. FIRE has been forced to intervene at UW three times since December 2004: to fight an unconstitutional policy that would have distributed student fee funding on the basis of viewpoint; to put an end to an unconstitutional ban on RAs leading bible studies; and most recently, to protect freedom of the press and stop the censorship of a student magazine.
Students have a constitutional right to associate and form groups with like-minded individuals—it is a bedrock principle of any free society. Universities should recognize that it is just as silly to force Christian groups to accept non-Christian members as it would be to force the College Democrats to accept Republicans, the ACLU to accept fascists, or Amnesty International to accept people who support torture.