Christian Student Group Sues UNC-G
Special Report - March 5, 2012
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro is facing a lawsuit for denying a pro-life student group an exemption to its nondiscrimination policy that requires officially recognized student groups to accept voting members and leaders “without regard to their …religion” as a condition of university recognition. The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed the lawsuit, Make Up Your Own Mind v. the Members of the Board of Trustees of UNC-Greensboro, on Wednesday, February 29, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
According to ADF, the case originated when UNC-Greensboro denied the pro-life student group known as Make Up Your Own Mind (MUYOM) official recognition as a religious club, “even though the club has a clear religious mission and purpose and requires its members and leaders to agree with its statement of faith and beliefs about the value of innocent human life.” The MUYOM club had requested a belief-based exemption to the university’s nondiscrimination policy. That exemption states, “Student groups that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership and participation in the group to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the group’s goals and agree with its beliefs.” UNC-Greensboro denied the student club’s request for an exemption, arguing that the club is not “religious” because it is affiliated with a local non-profit organization, and not a church, despite the fact that “the university recognizes many other religious organizations that are not affiliated with a church,” according to ADF.
The lawsuit explains that Brian Carmichael, a student at UNC-Greensboro and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, desires to start a MUYOM club, which is affiliated with the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, and to register the club as an officially recognized student group at the university. The complaint argues that the proposed club “qualifies for UNCG’s exemption allowing religious belief-based groups to restrict members and leaders to their religious beliefs.” It continues, “Despite MUYOM’s desire to promote its religious beliefs, Defendant refused to grant MUYOM recognition pursuant to the exemption to its nondiscrimination policy allowing belief-based groups to restrict members and leaders to their particular beliefs.” It claims that UNC-Greensboro’s nondiscrimination policy “and actions in this case” violate the club’s rights to free exercise of religion, free speech, free association, equal protection and “their rights under the Establishment Clause.” The lawsuit asks for the court to order UNC-Greensboro to grant the club official recognition as a “religious” club.
“Saying that a Christian club isn’t religious is flatly absurd, especially when the university has granted its belief-based exception to numerous other clubs,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, in a press release. “The First Amendment forbids the government from determining what is and what is not ‘religious,’ yet the university is doing exactly this by telling a Christian group that it is not religious. The Constitution protects the right of all student groups to employ belief-based criteria in selecting their members and leaders.”
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