Princeton University: Refusal to Recognize Religious Group


Princeton University

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Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

Princeton Faith and Action, a student organization at Princeton University, was given recognition after being arbitrarily denied such. PFA is associated with the Christian Union, an off-campus ministry serving Ivy League universities whose own request to apply to have a full-time chaplain on campus was rejected by Dean of Religious Life Thomas Breidenthal. After being blocked from reserving spaces on campus through an existing recognized Christian student group, students organized PFA in order to hold activities independently. When they approached the student government to apply for official recognition, however, student government officials explained that because their group was religious in nature, they were required first to obtain Dean Breidenthal's approval-even though secular groups face no such hurdle. Then, at a meeting to discuss the possibility of recognition, Dean Breidenthal denied PFA the opportunity to apply for recognition because he did not want to recognize a group that associated with the Christian Union. When the students expressed concerns that the approval process seemed discriminatory, the dean explained that this was "the way things are done" at Princeton. FIRE wrote to the school, reminding it of its stated commitments to freedom of religion and association, and soon PFA was given recognition, and Princeton pledged to re-examine their policy, which unfairly singles out religious student organizations for additional and exceptional scrutiny.