Thursday, March 30, 2006

Arizona Bill To Require Recognition of Student Religious Organizations Nears Passage

In Arizona, the state Senate has passed and sent on to the House the "Associational Freedom in Higher Learning Act" (SB 1153). The ASU Web Devil reports that on Tuesday, the House Committee on Universities, Community Colleges, and Technology voted 5-2 to approve the bill that would prohibit universities from refusing to recognize or grant benefits to a student organization because the organization limits membership based on the religious, political or philosophical views of the organization. However recognition could be denied to groups that engage in "invidious" discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin or sex. The bill was proposed after Arizona State University last year denied recognition to the Christian Legal Society because it limited membership on the basis of religion and sexual orientation. The lawsuit was settled after the University permitted the group to keep its requirement that members be Christians. (See prior posting.) ASU opposes the pending bill, arguing that student organizations at state universities should comply with the Arizona Board of Regents Code of Conduct that prohibits a wide variety of discriminatory activities.