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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

First Amendment Freedom of Religion Repealed by University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire for Dorm RAs

Administrators at the University of Wisconsin have decreed that resident assistants in dorms on the Eau Claire campus not only can't host Bible studies on their own time in their rooms, they are also prohbited from "leading, organizing or recruiting" students for any organization or activity in their dorms.

Foundation for Individual Rights Education President David French made the school's stance public yesterday by releasing the text of a Nov. 8 letter from UWEC's General Counsel which claimed the school has "consistently followed" a "viewpoint neutral" policy that prevents RAs from organizing or leading "all organization [sic] or activities."

The Nov. 8 letter was in response to a request by FIRE that UWEC stop violating the First Amendment guarantee of the right to free exercise of religion by prohibiting RAs from hosting private Bible studies in their rooms.

The Nov. 8 letter contradicts UWEC's own job description for RAs, which gives RAs the responsibility to "help organize and promote educational, recreational, social, and cultural activities that the students want and need," according to FIRE.

The same job description encourages RAs to "actively assist" in the "political" programs organized by students living in the school's dorms. The latter policy was apparently behind UWEC officials praising a female RA who helped organize an official production of "The Vaginina Monologues" in 2004.

"UWEC's response to FIRE defies rational explanation," French said. "Faced with intense public criticism over its repressive policy, UWEC has announced an even more repressive policy. Further, for UWEC to argue that it has 'consistently followed' a policy banning RAs from leading or organizing 'all organizations or activities' flies in the face of the evidence and logic."

For additional information on how the UWEC situation is indicative of a more general trend nationwide of officially sanctioned discrimination against First Amendment rights, go here for my most recent Townhall.com column, entitled "How long before they ban private Bible reading?"

Don't think it can't happen here.