By Tan Vinh at The Seattle Times
If there were any place that would embrace her Christian, anti-abortion student club without hesitation, Ashley Horne figured it would be Gonzaga University, a 116-year-old Jesuit school in Spokane and one of the Northwest’s leading Catholic institutions.
But to her surprise, Gonzaga’s Student Bar Association (SBA) has refused to recognize her Pro-Life Law Caucus as a university-sponsored group, ruling that the club would discriminate because only Christians can hold leadership positions in the organization.
“We live in a strange age, indeed, when a Catholic, Jesuit university would deny a Christian pro-life group recognition because its religious nature is considered discriminatory,” said Greg Lukianoff, spokesman for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Philadelphia-based group that considers itself a watchdog for students’ rights on college campuses.
The unusual debate started this fall when Horne and Katie Hauck, both second-year law students, formed a club to promote an anti-abortion agenda and assist a crisis-pregnancy center in Spokane.
To enhance the club’s profile, the students requested affiliation with the Student Bar Association (SBA), which represents law-school students and sponsors clubs and other activities for them.
Official recognition would entitle the group to money from student fees and to be mentioned on the university’s Web page and in the student handbook.
The Pro-Life Law Caucus has about 20 members.
While membership is open to all students, the group’s bylaws stipulate that only Christians can become club officers — president, vice president, secretary or treasurer.
The SBA considered that discrimination against non-Christians and denied the request.