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TN bill looks to let college religious groups pick members

12:39 AM, Feb 26, 2013   |    comments
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Some state legislators want to give religious groups at public colleges the ability to deny membership to students who do not conform to their values.

Last year, Vanderbilt University enforced a policy that requires university-recognized groups to allow any student to join and run for office, even if a student does not share that group's central beliefs.

Father Stephen Freeman, a priest adviser to UT's Orthodox Christian Fellowship, said he likes the measure. He feels current rules are restricting the freedoms of certain religious groups.

More Information: Read the legislation

"Rules of political correctness, frequently have good intentions, but they usually result in less freedom and in an atmosphere that's intolerable," Freeman said.

But, UT student Vincent Charlow disagrees.

"I personally would not like that freedom to pick and choose," he said. "I understand if it's your leadership, because then you have to have a shared mission, you have to know what direction your going in, but members not necessarily, because you want people to come in, you want dialogue."

The ACLU also released a statement about how it feels about the bill:

"Religious freedom in America means that every person has the right to his or her own personal, religious beliefs, and ACLU has long defended that right. But, religious freedom is not a free pass that people can use whenever they want to discriminate against others."

Teresa Hooper, the president of the UT InterVarsity Christian Fellowship graduate chapter, said she can see both sides of the argument. Hooper said the legislation also brings up a good question.

"I do think that this bill is bringing up a very important issue of what it means to be a student religious organization, what does it mean to have students in the organization, [and] what does it mean for them to truly be religious in an environment that feels safe," Hooper said.

The bill will go to vote in the House Education Subcommittee Tuesday.

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