South Carolina’s legislature has angered liberal groups by requiring that two of the state’s public universities use state funds to teach students about the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents.
The lawmakers had cut funding for the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina when the schools assigned students to read books with homosexual themes. The revised budget restores the funding, but demands that the funds be spent “for instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.”
This past year, the College of Charleston chose Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, a graphic novel that tells of the author’s childhood as a lesbian, as the campus’s all-read. At USC-Upstate, first-year writing students were required to read Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio, a collection of stories from a Columbia gay and lesbian radio show.
In response to these requirements, $52,000 was cut from the College of Charleston’s budget, and $17,142 from USC. Republican Garry Smith told Fox News when he introduced the cuts in March that he received complaints from parents of children at the two schools, who said that their children were not allowed to opt for alternative books when they objected to the books’ content. Smith said the reading requirements of the two schools were “very irresponsibly executed.” The president of the College of Charleston said the the school has the right to introduce controversial ideas to students.
The revised budget restored the total amounts that had been cut, but with a focus on good-government literature, according to Campus Reform. This puts the colleges back in compliance with a 90-year-old state law requiring them to teach students a year’s worth of courses on the nation’s founding documents. The new bill also requires that any mandatory reading must offer an alternative in case the requirements conflict with the religious beliefs of any students.
The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and other groups expressed their discontent with the new legislation in a statement Friday, stating that it is a “destructive assault on academic freedom.”
Democratic legislator James Smith told Fox News that he still considers the amended budget a victory for academic freedom, and thinks that the added requirement of using the funds for classes on the Constitution was an attempt by the Republican lawmakers to claim victory in the budget battle.
“The reality is some of my colleagues need a lesson on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights,” he said.
— Molly Wharton is an intern at National Review.