Last Friday, the University of Wisconsin at Madison notified the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation that it would be denied recognition and student fee eligibility for the current school year. The reason? The Foundation allegedly does not meet the university’s requirements for “student leadership” (even though its student programs are run by students and its student fee awards are managed by students). The Foundation now joins the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Wisconsin-Superior(derecognized because its leaders must be Christian), the Knights of Columbus at Madison (derecognized because its members must be male Catholics), the Christian Legal Society (derecognized because its voting members and leaders must be Christians), and the Calvary Chapel, a Lutheran group (derecognized because of alleged lack of “student leadership” and its exclusively Lutheran membership), in the ranks of banished student organizations. Interestingly, the student leadership issue applied to Calvary Chapel in spite of the fact that students are a majority of its governing board.
In addition, the Alliance Defense Fund is receiving word from multiple sources that the university has a “hit list” that includes several other Christian groups and that university officials are calling and asking Christian members of those groups some quite intrusive questions about their faith practices. These actions — as egregious as they are on their own merits — are made even more outrageous by the fact that they come mere weeks after the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (which governs Wisconsin) ruled that a university cannot use its religious nondiscrimination rules to prevent Christian organizations from limiting leadership and membership to Christians. It appears that the university is choosing to intentionally defy the law.
If an entire university system was defying controlling precedent to systematically eliminate African-American or Hispanic organizations from campus, there would not only be demonstrations in the streets but also hearings in the halls of Congress. But the university world supports systematic discrimination against religiously orthodox Christians (both Protestant and Catholic), and too many political leaders simply shrug at the violations of fundamental liberty committed by institutions that they fund and (allegedly) ultimately control. Individual lawsuits can address individual injustices, but faced with systematic abuse and universities that choose to ignore governing legal decisions, there may very well need to be a comprehensive legislative response. Should federal dollars subsidize religious persecution? Should the nation’s taxpayers continue to fund discrimination and exclusion? Our nation’s public universities belong to all of us — not just the radical, secular left.