In response to an ADF letter, Indiana University-Bloomington announced last week that it removed a ban on religious activities from its student activity fee system. In December 2010, ADF sent a letter to IU on behalf of student leaders of Impact Movement, a Christian student organization at IU. Impact Movement applied for student fee funding last fall to send some of its members to its national conference over New Year’s weekend. IU’s Student Activity Funding Board denied the request, citing the potential for the conference to include proselytizing and other religious activities. At the time, IU policy excluded funding for student group activities that involved “religious proselytizing” or “sectarian events (ceremonies, services, and religious rites).”
Last week, the president of IU’s Student Activity Funding Board contacted Impact Movement’s leadership and informed them of the policy change, which completely removes the ban on religious activities. The Funding Board asked Impact Movement to reapply for the funding so that the Board could reprocess the request. Kudos to IU for removing this viewpoint discriminatory policy.
IU’s decision comes on the heels of the Badger Catholic v. Walsh case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Indiana, held that the University of Wisconsin violated the First Amendment by prohibiting student groups from receiving student activity fees for any activity that may include prayer, worship, or proselytizing. (Full disclosure: ADF is counsel on the case.) That decision rests on 30 years of Supreme Court precedent. However, the University of Wisconsin filed a cert petition in December, asking the Supreme Court to take the Badger Catholic case and re-examine whether religious speech should get equal access to public forums. The Justices will consider the petition at their Friday conference this week, and we should know by Monday at 10:00 a.m. (Eastern) whether the Supreme Court will take the case.
In the mean time, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Impact Movement can continue making an even bigger impact at IU now that they are on equal footing with all other student groups.