Crucial Victory for Freedom of Religion and Association at Southern Illinois University
July 11, 2006
Yesterday, a federal appeals court ordered Southern Illinois University’s (SIU’s) School of Law to grant a Christian student group the same rights as secular student groups on its campus. The court ordered a preliminary injunction requiring the school to recognize the group and sent the case back to the lower court for trial. Last year, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed an amicus brief in the case, urging the appeals court to reach this very result.
Students and faculty who are openly or devoutly religious are increasingly marginalized at America’s colleges and universities. The mere expression of religious beliefs in public is often condemned or even punished as “harassment” or “discrimination.” At dozens of universities across the country, religious groups have been denied official university recognition merely because they wished to form groups devoted to their faith and to exclude those who do not share their faith. The right to form groups according to a set of beliefs is a basic human and constitutional right, but too many colleges that recognize the rights of dozens—even hundreds—of student groups ignore this principle when the groups are based upon an evangelical Christian or traditional Muslim faith.