Pennsylvania State University: Charges of ‘Discrimination’ Due to Religious Language in Club Constitution

Category: Free Speech, Religious Liberty
Schools: Pennsylvania State University – University Park

A student group at Penn State University (PSU) won a momentous victory when the University reversed a ruling of the student government that had stripped the group’s constitution and mission statement of words found to be “discriminatory.” The trouble started when the undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court informed PSU’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) that the words of its constitution and mission statement, identifying rights as “God- given,” constituted religious “discrimination,” because the words reflected a “devotion to god.” Later that year, the same Supreme Court upheld its decision and “struck” the offending statements from the YAF constitution. YAF appealed again, this time to a student-faculty Appeals Board, which unanimously denied YAF the right to be recognized as a student organization if it kept its “religious” language. FIRE wrote to PSU President Graham Spanier reminding Spanier of his vigorous defense of the First Amendment and of academic freedom in other cases. President Spanier immediately agreed to review the case, deciding that YAF should be allowed registration as a student group.