Last September, FIRE reported that the University of Wisconsin–Madison was derecognizing and defunding a number of religious student organizations, including the Roman Catholic Foundation, on charges of religious discrimination. In February, FIRE reported that the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin System passed a new policy that, despite some ambiguity, more or less protected freedom of association.
According to Inside Higher Ed, a U.S. District Judge handed down a ruling last Thursday explicitly ordering the University of Wisconsin to cease its violation of religious groups’ freedom of association. The University cannot use the nondiscrimination policy to disqualify groups that discriminate on the basis of belief or behavior:
On the key issue of legal philosophy, the judge’s ruling was very much what the religious students wanted: an order that the university not deny them recognition on the basis of Madison’s non-discrimination policy.
The Roman Catholic Foundation was ordered to abide by the school’s regulations to receive funding. The organization had only three students on its twelve-person board. Representing the Foundation, former FIRE president and lawyer for the Alliance Defense Fund David French told the Associated Press, “it’s a tremendous victory for free speech and association.”