FIRE Demands University of Wisconsin Lift Ban on RA-Led Bible Studies

November 8, 2005

The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has threatened its resident assistants, or “RAs,” with disciplinary action if they hold a Bible study on their own time in their dorm rooms. A UW-Eau Claire administrator has told certain RAs the mere fact that they lead a Bible study may make some students feel they are being judged or that the RA is less “approachable.”

The head of one civil liberties group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is calling the school’s prohibition against RAs leading Bible studies “an absolute and complete absurdity.” The group has sent a letter to UW-Eau Claire Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson, asking her to lift the ban. However, according to FIRE president David French, the university has so far chosen to ignore the request.

Members of a Christian group on campus called “Student Impact” have been the target of religious discrimination, French contends. He says a university administrator accessed the Christian student group’s website, cross-referenced the list of people leading Bible studies with the RA list, and then came up with this policy, which “really looks as if it’s specifically directed not just against Christians but against this specific group of Christians at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.”

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that the UW-Madison has a similar ban on Bible studies led by RAs. French feels the University of Wisconsin is employing a huge double standard when it comes to the First Amendment.

“The university is saying to RAs that, on their own time, they cannot lead a Bible study,” the FIRE spokesman points out. “But to another RA who, on official time, put on an in-dorm production of the play Vagina Monologues, they praised her, even though this same RA commented that putting on that play took time away from the hall.”

FIRE is calling on the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to end its prohibition and allow resident assistants to exercise their constitutionally protected religious freedom by leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms. French says the university administration has chosen to ignore his group so far but has promised to respond at some point.

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Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Cases: University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: Ban on RAs’ Leading Bible Studies