UW religious debate reaches Wis. lawmakers

November 15, 2005

In a situation that may strain the relationship between church and state in Wisconsin, UW System officials appealed to the state attorney general Monday for her input on a UW policy that forbids resident assistants from holding religious functions in dormitories.

The UW System called on state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager Monday to determine the legality of the current UW System policy.

Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, called for hearings in Congress and the state Legislature to look into the controversy which started earlier this month when some resident assistants at UW-Eau Claire complained about the policy.

He said the hearings are necessary “in order to obtain the answers the people of Wisconsin so rightly deserve.”

Green also sent a letter to UW System President Kevin Reilly and called on the UW System to end “this deplorable and unconstitutional policy.” He further urged Reilly to “create a new, written policy affirmatively and explicitly stating that these studies are permitted.”

System spokesperson Doug Bradley defended the policy and noted it did not apply only to religious events.

He said resident assistants are prohibited from hosting politically partisan events and sales events in their own rooms, in addition to the religious policy.

He added the policy was designed to prevent conflicts between RA’s and their residents.

“[Students] might feel like because of the role and relationship that you have with your resident assistant and [feel] some type of coercion to attend,” he said.

Bradley also emphasized that the policy only prohibited resident assistants from hosting events in their own dorm rooms, which the System considers their place of employment.

He dismissed Green’s call for a hearing, saying Lautenschlager’s involvement was sufficient at this point.

“There might be time for other conversations and other venues to talk about this,” he said. “But let’s see if we can’t get a legal opinion from our top legal advisor and see where we sit at that point.”

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