Officials at Virginia Tech recently gave the “okay” for a long-overdue change to its policies governing funding for student organizations in response to a letter from ADF warning the university that its policies violated the First Amendment.
Virginia Tech had a policy allowing student clubs and organizations to apply for funding from the university for events and activities hosted by student groups. The money for this fund was collected from a mandatory student fee that the university charged to all students. While a near limitless variety of activities and events could receive funding, the policy discriminated against religious student clubs, stating that “[o]rganizations will not be provided funding for religious worship or religious proselytizing.”
What does this mean in practice? A Greek club could get funding to host a concert featuring a popular rap artist, but a Christian club would be denied access to those same funds for a concert for a Christian worship artist. Or as the rapper might say: “Throw ya hands in the air like ya just don’t care (as long as ya ain’t doing it for Jesus).”
Fortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that a public university must distribute student fees in a viewpoint-neutral manner. After ADF sent a letter to Virginia Tech explaining that its discriminatory policy against religious worship and religious proselytizing violated the First Amendment, Virginia Tech notified ADF that “[e]ffective immediately, the Administration will direct that the Student Budget Board delete the restriction from its policies.”
It is encouraging to see one of our nation’s premier universities showing a healthy respect for religious expression on campus. If your school has a similar restriction on funding for religious organizations or activities, contact ADF. Your courage to speak up may be all it takes for your university to change its policies.