Don’t Force Universities to Financially Support Discriminatory Clubs

The Senate Education Committee put SB 111, “the FORUM Act” on its agenda for today. The bill is largely a campus free speech bill that, as a free speech organization, ACLU-WV would probably support. However, hidden in Section 7 of the bill is a provision that would prohibit universities from denying funds to student clubs, even if those clubs refused membership to people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation or other protected status.

This provision of SB 111 seems to be an attempt to counteract the 2010 US Supreme Court case Christian Legal Society v Martinez. In that case, the Supreme Court said that universities are permitted to have policies that condition funding on student groups’ promise not to discriminate. The current iteration of SB 111 would essentially wipe out school non-discrimination policies as applied to student clubs.

At today’s meeting, the Education Committee had no substantive talks regarding SB 111. Instead, they assigned the bill to a subcommittee made up of Senators Azinger, Rucker, and Beach. We assume the bill was hastily assigned to subcommittee because ACLU-WV and allied organizations sounded the alarm to a number of potentially sympathetic members of the committee.

But we now have to keep up the pressure. We need you to contact key members of the committee and tell them to amend or remove Section 7 of SB 111 because we don’t want our universities funding discriminatory clubs. Take action now, by calling the following senators:

Senator Trump    (304) 357-7980
Senator Mann    (304) 357-7849
Senator Drennan   (304) 357-7901
Senator Beach    (304) 357-7919
Senator Unger    (304) 357-7933
Senator Romano    (304) 357-7904
Senator Stollings    (304) 357-7939
Senator Plymale    (304) 357-7937
Senator Swope    (304) 357-7843

Students on campus are free to form whatever organizations they want. However, organizations that discriminate should not receive school funding. Our tax dollars should not go to private clubs that engage in invidious discrimination. Moreover, student activity fees, which frequently fund university clubs, are paid by students themselves. As such, under the SB 111, a Jewish student at WVU could be forced to pay a student activity fee that funds a club that prohibits Jews from membership. It would be outrageous.

We need you to take action to ensure that this bill is fixed. We should not be requiring West Virginia universities to fund bigotry.

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