Judge Says Wisconsin May Deny Funds to Religious Group

First Amendment rights were not violated, judge writes.

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A federal district Judge ruled in favor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison last week, saying it had the right to both grant and deny funding to religious student organizations, the Daily Cardinal reports. The suit was originally brought by the Roman Catholic Foundation, a campus student group that was refused funding for some activities for the past two school years.

The group argued that by denying them funding derived from student fees, the university was violating its First Amendment rights. The group had sought money to pay for things like printing costs for a pamphlet on the rosary and bringing nuns from Italy to Madison.

The judge's decision is the latest, and perhaps last, phase of a two-year-long legal battle between the university and the religious organization. In March 2007, a judge ruled that the Catholic group could not receive funds because it was not sufficiently a student-run organization (three of its board members were students; the other three were church leaders). The foundation then reorganized its leadership to meet university standards and sued the university again.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the judge wrote:

The university "has not established any reason that justified" not funding the activities but at the same time had not tried specifically to suppress religious viewpoints.

"Plaintiffs have identified no topic on which the University has excluded religious viewpoints," Adelman wrote. "They have not shown, for example, that the University funds secular speech about abortion and birth control but prohibits RCF from expressing a Catholic perspective on these topics."