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Stimulous Bill and Religious Activities on Campuses

The Stimulus Bill that is making its way through the Congress contains a provision to provide funds for the renovation of facilities and buildings on public and private college and university campuses. Fine. The issue I have is that those funds cannot be used for any building that allows religious stuff to go on within it.

So, if a Student Union provides space for student organizations to meet and fairly and equally allows religious student groups to use the facilities along with all others, none of the stimulus money can be used to renovate that Student Union. What will happen is that the many administrators will simply forbid those student groups with a religious purpose from using the facilities while continuing to allow all others to do so. This is discrimination against students of faith, and I've seen it attempt attempted many times.

The Supreme Court has already ruled that this is unconstitutional - I think it was the 2001 Good News Club v. Milford Central School where the court declared that restricting religious speech within the context of public shared-use facilities is unconstitutional.

As of yesterday (Feb. 9th), here is the prohibitions on the use of $3.5 billion designated for campus facilities:

(2) PROHIBITED USES OF FUNDS. No funds awarded under this section may be used for - (C) modernization, renovation, or repair of facilities (i) used for sectarian instruction, religious worship, or a school or department of divinity; or (ii) in which a substantial portion of the functions of the facilities are subsumed in a religious mission; or construction of new facilities.

Whether this prohibition is in the final bill or not, no one can say.

There is really no reason for this, other than an attempt by those who believe that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution forbids any tax money going for anything that touches religion or religious expression (or regarding people with a religious dimension to their lives). There are plenty of people who hold this opinion - I was around a lot of them in academia. This opinion cannot hold up to judicial scrutiny, and the Courts have rules ruled as such. The overwhelming majority of the American people do not hold to this position, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, or frankly most non-religious people. There are those who are simply antagonistic toward religion and religious people.

If included in the final bill and passed, and while it makes its way through the courts yet again, in the mean time there will be plenty of school administrators that will grab hold of it for their own purposes. While both a student and a student/academic professional, I constantly had to advocate for "people of faith," because while certain interests where all about diversity and inclusion, their definitions of these words did not include a large swath of people - like people of faith. It always amazes me how those who shout "tolerance" the loudest are often the most intolerant. I've experience plenty of them.

The last administration was under the domination of the politicized Religious Right, which has done the Church and the Christian witness no good among the citizenry. Now, the more extreme on the other side of the equation will find favor with many in this new administration. Neither of the positions are good or positive, neither are right, neither uphold the will of most Americans, neither abide by the intent or the spirit of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution. Yet, here we are.

NOTE: Since this Web space is primarily a place for me to dump thoughts and to keep track of things, I'm not being particular about grammar and spelling. I realize this will effect how some people will respond to me and to my thoughts. Feel free to point out mistakes! If this drives you nuts, sorry.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 10, 2009 8:43 AM.

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