Bill Raises Serious Constitutional Concerns
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 2, 2013
CONTACT: Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director, 615-320-7142
NASHVILLE –The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to Governor Bill Haslam urging him to veto SB 802/HB 534, which unconstitutionally requires public universities to recognize and fund student organizations that use religion to discriminate against people by excluding them from membership or leadership.
“This legislation mandates that Tennessee’s public universities support the use of religion to discriminate,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN Executive Director. “ACLU has long stood for the protection of individuals’ religious freedom. Student organizations are free to believe and associate as they like—but they do not have the right to have their discriminatory conduct funded by taxpayers.”
The United States Supreme Court affirmed a school’s right to require student clubs seeking school recognition and funding to adhere to the school’s non-discrimination policy, provided that the requirement applies to all student clubs equally in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The Court ruled that student clubs have a right to discriminate, but the United States Constitution does not require that they receive government funding to subsidize the discrimination, nor government recognition to legitimize it.
The letter urges Governor Haslam to veto SB 802/HB 534 “because it is not necessary to protect students’ freedom of speech and associational rights and public universities should not be required to fund and lend their name to discriminatory conduct. Without this legislation, student organizations that wish to discriminate are free to do so and to do so on public campuses. They simply will not be entitled to be funded by state tax dollars or student fees to engage in these discriminatory acts. We urge you to veto this legislation as an unnecessary and unconstitutional intrusion on the academic freedom of Tennessee’s public universities.”
A copy of ACLU-TN’s letter urging Governor Haslam to veto the anti-all-comers bill can be found here.