Editorials Endorse Repeal of ‘Bible Study Ban’

March 9, 2006

Today, the Education Committee of the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents is set to vote on repealing UW-Madison and UW–Eau Claire’s infamous “Bible study bans.” It was FIRE, of course, that brought this issue to the surface.

As the Education Committee votes—and, hopefully, as the full board prepares to vote tomorrow—it’s an appropriate time to consider the widespread support that the recent policy recommendation by UW System President Kevin Reilly has received. As we noted in a press release, FIRE supports Reilly’s proposed policy; it is what we have been requesting for months now. So does the Badger Herald, a student newspaper at UW-Madison, which recently editorialized as follows:

For some time now, UW schools have been free to ban RAs from leading certain activities, such as bible studies, within their dorm rooms. On Wednesday, UW System President Kevin Reilly acted on the counsel of a group of residence-life professionals, student affairs officers and students, recommending a laudable proposal to the Board of Regents to guarantee resident assistants certain rights bestowed upon other residents of university housing. If adopted, this plan would allow RAs all of the freedoms presently enjoyed by John Q. Resident. In a world-class university, we should accept nothing less.

So does the La Crosse Tribune:

The proposed policy essentially allows resident assistants to hold such meetings in their rooms, the same as other students are allowed to do, as long as no one is required or pressured to attend.

That makes good sense. Because resident assistants are paid to work as leaders in their dormitories, no other student should have to feel pressured or ostracized because he or she is of the wrong religion or political organization.

But resident assistants should not have to give up their First Amendment rights in the process. This proposal seems to respect everybody’s rights.

Let’s not forget the Sheboygan Press:

University of Wisconsin President Kevin Reilly has proposed a reasonable policy on holding Bible study classes in the rooms of dormitory resident assistants. UW Regents should approve the proposal at this week’s meeting.

And finally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The new policy strikes a better balance. It would permit the assistants to host political or religious events provided they don’t pressure the students in their charge to attend.

This proposal deserves the regents’ support.

FIRE emphatically agrees. Regents? Your turn.

Schools:  University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire University of Wisconsin – Madison