Ball State University: Threat to Religious Group’s Freedom of Association

In May 2000, religious freedom was under assault at this large public university. Administrators at Ball State University sought to stifle unpopular views and sincere religious convictions. The Christian Student Foundation was required, in 1999, to adopt language in its constitution that would violate its fundamental Biblical principles. The student group requested an exemption. Ball State ignored the issue for more than one year until FIRE intervened in May 2000. FIRE joined forces with the Christian Legal Society (CLS) to protect the constitutional rights to religious freedom and voluntary association of the Christian Student Foundation.

It took FIRE to remind Ball State administrators of their obligations to the First Amendment and to relevant case law. As a public university, we argued, the First Amendment’s freedom of association clause conferred a legal obligation upon Ball State to allow campus student groups the ability to associate and to exercise their religious beliefs without interference. Further, we demonstrated the moral and legal double standard under which Ball State operated. In response to these arguments, the administration altered its course. In June 2000, the attorneys for Ball State responded to FIRE, assuring us in writing that the status and religious liberty of the group would be respected.

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