Indiana U. eliminates policy that excluded religious student groups from student fee funding

ADF letter, ADF win in 7th Circuit provided basis for policy change
Monday, February 28, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — After receiving a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund, Indiana University-Bloomington officials have eliminated a policy that excluded funding for student group activities that involve “religious proselytizing” or “sectarian events (ceremonies, services, and religious rites).” All students pay fees into a student activity fund; however, only student groups that present a non-religious point-of-view could have such activities funded under the old policy.

ADF sent the letter to the university after it denied activity funding to Impact Movement, a registered Christian student group at the university that focuses on “producing leaders of African descent.”

“Christian student groups should not be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said ADF Legal Counsel David Hacker. “The university funded the advocacy and expression of other student organizations but singled out Impact Movement for exclusion based purely upon its viewpoint.  The 7th Circuit has rightly regarded this as unconstitutional, and so the university has done the right thing in modifying its policy.”

In December of last year, Impact Movement sought activity funding to send some of its members to its national conference. The university permits partial funding of conference attendance for members of registered student groups and had approved funding for Impact Movement in previous years. Nevertheless, the IU Student Association Funding Board denied Impact Movement’s request for 2010, citing the university’s Student Organization Funding Guidelines. The director of student activities upheld the decision.

ADF sent a letter to the university on behalf of the student group, explaining that the IU policy is unconstitutional, specifically citing a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit involving a similar situation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In that case, the 7th Circuit ruled in favor of ADF attorneys representing a Catholic student group denied funds for their activities.

In an e-mail to a leader of Impact Movement Thursday, the IU Student Association Funding Board said it has removed the funding limitations from its guidelines. It added that it will reconsider its previous denial so that the group can be reimbursed the funding it would have received for the conference attendees.

ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.