Phi Beta Cons

Legal Equality in Wisconsin

Yesterday, in a victory for fairness and legal equality, the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation settled its religious discrimination lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin-Madison (full disclosure:  the Alliance Defense Fund represents the Foundation, and I served as counsel for the Foundation).  Under the terms of the settlement, the Foundation’s recognition as a student group was affirmed, the university agreed to award the Foundation more than $250,000.00 in student activity fees, and the parties agreed to a framework that should prevent any future viewpoint discrimination.  At its essence, the settlement guarantees that the university will treat the Foundation the same as other student groups.  In return, the Foundation has clarified and strengthened its student leadership and has separated pure “church” functions (such as weddings, masses, and funerals) from the student organization and placed those functions under a separate organization.
This settlement actually represents something of a landmark moment for Christian organizations on campus.  Although the law has for some time allowed these groups equal access to campus facilities and student fee funding, few groups actually receive equal treatment.  At many campuses — and despite clear precedent — Christian student groups find their mere presence in peril.  Other campuses — while permitting Christian student groups to meet — systematically deny student activity fee funding for religious activities or provide fee awards far smaller than fee awards given to favored groups that are often smaller and less active than many Christian student groups.  For example, it is not unusual to see student groups like Campus Crusade for Christ or InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (which are often very large — especially on public campuses) receive fee awards in the range of $500 to $1500, while groups that promote the “cultural” agenda of diversity and multiculturalism receive awards in the tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars.  This funding disparity has dramatic consequences for the visibility and prominence of the respective organizations’ message on campus, including speaker fees (ever wonder why there’s always money in the budget for famous leftist speakers?) and other forms of purely expressive expenditures.  Funding disparities can cause the secular left to “dominate the forum” on campus and cause students to incorrectly assume that the left’s arguments are more popular and persuasive than they are.
At Wisconsin-Madison — for the first time — a religious student group has stepped up and fought for funding at a level that matches its size and activity level.  The Roman Catholic Foundation is arguably the largest student group on campus (it certainly serves the most students), and it is now comparably funded to other large (secular) student groups.  The long-term ramifications of true legal equality are difficult to predict, but it is certain that the secular left can no longer dominate the forum in Madison.  At Wisconsin, the Roman Catholic Foundation has led the way.  Will other Christian groups follow its example? 

Most Popular

U.S.

The Lies We’re Told about the American Story

Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from remarks delivered to the annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, in California, on October 4. Every American heart must break when lies are told to boys and girls, who then grow up to think the worst about their past: that the American ... Read More
U.S.

The Lies We’re Told about the American Story

Editor’s Note: The following essay was adapted from remarks delivered to the annual dinner of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, in California, on October 4. Every American heart must break when lies are told to boys and girls, who then grow up to think the worst about their past: that the American ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More

The Pollster Who Thinks Trump Is Ahead

The polling aggregator on the website RealClearPolitics shows the margin in polls led by Joe Biden in a blue font and the ones led by Donald Trump in red. For a while, the battleground states have tended to be uniformly blue, except for polls conducted by the Trafalgar Group. If you are a firm believer only in ... Read More
Film & TV

Bill Murray: The King of Cool

Bill Murray’s Bill Murray impression is priceless in On the Rocks, the way John Wayne did a fantastic John Wayne parody in True Grit and Al Pacino found a new level of Pacino-ness in Scent of a Woman. I want to quote every line of dialogue Murray delivers in his new movie for Apple TV+ -- every hilarious piece ... Read More
Film & TV

Bill Murray: The King of Cool

Bill Murray’s Bill Murray impression is priceless in On the Rocks, the way John Wayne did a fantastic John Wayne parody in True Grit and Al Pacino found a new level of Pacino-ness in Scent of a Woman. I want to quote every line of dialogue Murray delivers in his new movie for Apple TV+ -- every hilarious piece ... Read More
Media

The Media’s Shameful Hunter Biden Abdication

In an interview with National Public Radio’s public editor today, Terence Samuel, managing editor for news, explained why readers haven’t seen any stories about the New York Post’s Hunter Biden email scoop. “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want ... Read More
Media

The Media’s Shameful Hunter Biden Abdication

In an interview with National Public Radio’s public editor today, Terence Samuel, managing editor for news, explained why readers haven’t seen any stories about the New York Post’s Hunter Biden email scoop. “We don’t want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we don’t want ... Read More
Books

Orwell, Huxley, and Us

To hear some people tell it, America entered a dystopia long before the coronavirus and measures undertaken to combat it altered everyday life almost to the point of unrecognizability. As for which dystopia, and when, well — that depends on whom one asks. For many on the left, the annus horribilis was 2016, ... Read More
Books

Orwell, Huxley, and Us

To hear some people tell it, America entered a dystopia long before the coronavirus and measures undertaken to combat it altered everyday life almost to the point of unrecognizability. As for which dystopia, and when, well — that depends on whom one asks. For many on the left, the annus horribilis was 2016, ... Read More