Pennsylvania State University: Charges of ‘Discrimination’ Due to Religious Language in Club Constitution
A student group at Penn State University (PSU) won a momentous victory when the University reversed a ruling of the student government that had stripped the group's constitution and mission statement of words found to be "discriminatory." The trouble started when the undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court informed PSU's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) that the words of its constitution and mission statement, identifying rights as "God- given," constituted religious "discrimination," because the words reflected a "devotion to god." Later that year, the same Supreme Court upheld its decision and "struck" the offending statements from the YAF constitution. YAF appealed again, this time to a student-faculty Appeals Board, which unanimously denied YAF the right to be recognized as a student organization if it kept its "religious" language. FIRE wrote to PSU President Graham Spanier reminding Spanier of his vigorous defense of the First Amendment and of academic freedom in other cases. President Spanier immediately agreed to review the case, deciding that YAF should be allowed registration as a student group.
- "Buckley and Seebach on FIRE," April 12, 2001: FIRE's two recent victories—at the University of Alaska and at Pennsylvania State University—continue to provoke profound editorial commentary about the academic betrayal of fundamental rights, the double standards that prevail on America's campuses, and the role of FIRE in securing liberty for both students and faculty. As Justice Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."
- "Letter from Penn State YAF Chairman Jeffery A. Budney FIRE, April 10, 2001," April 10, 2001
- "FIRE Secures the Rights of Penn State’s Young Americans for Freedom," March 26, 2001: Young Americans for Freedom at Penn State University won a momentous victory when the University reversed a student and faculty ruling that had stripped the group's constitution and mission statement of religious and philosophical language found to be "discriminatory." FIRE brought the case to the attention of Penn State's President, Graham Spanier, who immediately resolved the case to the advantage of liberty.
- "Letter from Penn State President Graham B. Spanier to FIRE, March 12, 2001," March 12, 2001
- "This Month in FIRE History: FIRE Secures the Rights of Penn State Student Group," by Bridget Glackin, March 15, 2012
- "New FIRE Video: Sean Clark on Penn State's Problem with 'God-Given Free Will'," by Robert Shibley, October 26, 2010: Today, FIRE's Campus Freedom Network (CFN) has released a new video as part of a series featuring students and professors whose rights FIRE has defended. Sean Clark was part of a group at Penn State University, Young Americans for Freedom, whose charter included a reference to "God-given free will" as a reason to support individual liberty. When the student supreme court at Penn State revoked the group's charter on the basis that this statement constituted religious discrimination, and the university upheld that decision, the group turned to FIRE for help.
- "Ignorance of our founding principles can endanger us all,"
by Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune (Minneapolis–St. Paul), March 5, 2006
- "Speech codes make universities intolerant,"
by Charles Mitchell, The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, Pa.), January 5, 2006
- "PC Students Soon to be Unleashed on Public,"
by Susan Jenkins, The Washington Times, April 17, 2001
- "The Few, the Brave, and FIRE,"
Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2001
- "Who Do We Blame?,"
by William Buckley, National Review, April 10, 2001
- "Student Group Can Use 'God' in Creed,"
by Andrea Billups, The Washington Times, March 30, 2001
- "Penn State Reverses Policy on Club,"
by Lou Marano, United Press International, March 26, 2001