NOTRE DAME, Ind., September 30, 2014—Months after being rejected on the grounds that it was considered “redundant,” the University of Notre Dame student group Students for Child-Oriented Policy (SCOP) has finally won official recognition. Notre Dame denied the group recognition earlier this year following student opposition to SCOP due to its stance against same-sex marriage. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) called on Notre Dame to abandon its dubious rationale for SCOP’s rejection.
“We commend Notre Dame for finally getting things right and allowing SCOP its rightful place among Notre Dame’s recognized student organizations,” said Robert Shibley, FIRE’s Senior Vice President. “University life benefits when the door is opened for student organizations to offer diverse perspectives on important issues—even if those perspectives cause controversy or spark opposition from the student population.”
When SCOP formed on campus in early 2014, it drew opposition from some Notre Dame students. This past March, after SCOP circulated a petition calling on Notre Dame to take a “clear stand” against same-sex marriage, more than 600 students signed a “Students Against SCOP” petition aimed at preventing its recognition, claiming that it would constitute an endorsement of “discrimination” by Notre Dame.
On April 30, SCOP was informed that Notre Dame’s student-run Club Coordination Council (CCC), which officially recognizes student organizations at Notre Dame, had rejected its application, arguing that its activities “closely mirrored” those of other organizations. Without official status, SCOP was ineligible to use university facilities, promote its activities through university bulletins and other outlets, or take advantage of other privileges.
FIRE debunked CCC’s argument in a May 23 letter to Notre Dame, arguing that this justification was a likely pretext for impermissible viewpoint discrimination against SCOP. Notre Dame initially defended SCOP’s rejection in a June 6 response to FIRE, standing by CCC’s discredited claim that SCOP was “redundant.” Not content to be relegated to second-class status on campus, however, SCOP applied for recognition again this fall. On September 25, SCOP received word that its application had been approved.
“While SCOP’s fight should never have taken this long, this is a good day for Notre Dame,” said Peter Bonilla, Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program. “Acknowledging the rights of SCOP and other organizations to express their opinions on campus ensures that those who would speak against their messages are fully protected in doing so as well.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.
Peter Bonilla, Director, Individual Rights Defense Program, FIRE: 215-717-3473; firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., President, University of Notre Dame: 574-631-3903; email@example.com