Skip to comments.Unfair treatment--UW-Madison Will Not Fund Catholic Group - For Now
Posted on 09/26/2006 8:27:04 PM PDT by SJackson
Written by The Daily Cardinal Editorial Board
The fact that the UW-Madison Roman Catholic Foundation was denied university funding and recognition Friday is disappointing. However, even more upsetting was the journey to the decision, which now puts the nations largest religious student group without funding.
It took the Registered Student Organization office nearly four months to deny UWRCF. The process normally takes three to four weeks. In an e-mail, director Yvonne Fangmeyer said she lacked UWRCFs bylaws. It does not take bylaws to realize that only three of the groups 12 board members are students; it can be found easily.
It is important for Fangmeyer to explain the prolonged process of UWRCFs rejection. So far, she has not commented to the media.
We believe UW Communications Spokesperson John Lucas, who says the university wants to work with the group so it can remain on campus, but Fangmeyer needs to quit stonewalling and explainif only so UWRCF can potentially alter its strategy for next year.
UWRCF could have more actively monitored its RSO status this summer, but it was the first group to submit its application.
Should it restructure its board, the Student Services Finance Committee would disregard its funding application.
An explanation is necessary in figuring out how UWRCF can increase its chances of receiving moneyand statusas a registered student organization on the UW-Madison campus.
UW-Madison Will Not Fund Catholic Group - For Now
AP) MADISON University of Wisconsin-Madison will not recognize and fund the oldest and largest religious group on campus, for now, in a move that is sparking a debate over the separation of church and state.
A UW-Madison official told the UW Roman Catholic Foundation in an e-mail Friday that it had rejected its application to be a registered student organization because only three of its 12 board members were students.
School rules require that groups "be controlled and directed by UW-Madison students," wrote Yvonne Fangmeyer, director of the student organization office.
The e-mail came just as a staff member of the Catholic group filed a complaint with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice alleging UW-Madison had discriminated against the religious group in a number of ways. The timing of the rejection and the complaint was a coincidence.
Casey Nagy, top aide to UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley, said Saturday the group could be recognized if it restructures its board. It could later receive funding if its programming is open to all students and does not violate the separation of church and state, he said.
"We don't have any hostility towards religious or other viewpoints. All we're asking for is student control and compliance with the law," he said. "We remain open to conversations on how to accomplish both of those ends with any organization on campus."
For now, the university's decision means the Catholic group cannot receive student fees, reserve space on campus, recruit students at school events or use UW in its title.
In recent months, UW-Madison administrators have become more vigilant enforcing requirements that student organizations do not discriminate in membership policies and are controlled by students.
The school last month refused to recognize the Knights of Columbus, the service organization which limits its membership to Catholic men, in a decision that sparked criticism from Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Green and other conservatives.
UWRCF, which runs St. Paul's Catholic Center and serves the school's estimated 12,000 Catholic students, traces its history on campus to 1883. St. Paul's, which opened in 1909, was the first Catholic chapel at a secular university in the U.S. The group claims 30,000 alumni.
Tim Kruse, spokesman for the foundation, said 90 percent of those using the Catholic center's services are students. He said the board includes community leaders such as Madison Bishop Robert Morlino to manage its budget wisely.
"We need the advice of outside people but our center is controlled and operated by students," he said. "To us, this is just the latest in a series of disingenuous attempts by the university to hide under policy and procedures that were only intended so that they could discriminate against a religious viewpoint."
In his complaint with the Department of Justice, Kruse alleges UW-Madison used a number of policies to illegally cut or limit its funding. He alleges the school has repeatedly violated court rulings requiring mandatory student fees to be awarded without regard to the viewpoint of the group.
He said he hopes the agency will put pressure on UW-Madison to end the discrimination and assist in a federal lawsuit the group plans to file. Nagy said he had not seen the complaint.
After a year-long dispute, Chancellor Wiley in May approved $145,000 in student fees for the group even though he complained that much of the money may violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public money from being used to support religion.
Some of the money went for running an evangelical ministry, holding prayer groups and printing Lenten booklets and drew the threat of a lawsuit from the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, which advocates for the separation of church and state.
At the same time, Wiley warned only registered student organizations would be eligible for funding in the future and UWRCF would receive money only if it could demonstrate the uses were constitutional. The group had received funding for three years.
The tougher policy prompted UW-Madison this summer to refuse to recognize a Knights of Columbus group that had been on campus for 30 years.
Knights of Columbus is also considering a lawsuit against the university to protect members' constitutional rights, an adviser said Saturday. "We remain hopeful that justice will be done," Mark Etzel said.
Might be of interest. I'll look for other articles. It appears they're not funding the Catholic group because it's for Catholics. Which makes sense, then I'm not an academic.
UW fee handouts again stir conflict
Catholic group vows to sue
By MEGAN TWOHEY
Posted: April 30, 2006
Ten years ago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was taken to court by several of its law students who challenged a requirement that all students pay a fee to fund student organizations on campus.
The university said the goal of the student fee program was to expose students to a variety of opinions and activities. The law students argued that it violated their free speech by forcing them to support groups they found offensive, such as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Campus Center.
The case - Southworth vs. The UW System Board of Regents - was litigated all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 2000, the court ruled that UW-Madison's student fee program was constitutional, but only if the money was distributed to student organizations regardless of their viewpoints.
The decision, which affected public universities across the country, is now being tested on the campus where it began.
Chancellor John Wiley announced last month that he would deny student fee funding to the UW Roman Catholic Foundation, saying it would violate the separation of church and state if fees were used to support Lenten booklets, Bible studies and other religious activities of the non-profit organization.
The foundation, which describes itself as "unabashedly religious," is furious and vowing to sue. It insists that Wiley is discriminating against its religious viewpoint in violation of the Supreme Court ruling. It has the support of the Alliance Defense Fund, a national organization that helped launch the Southworth lawsuit a decade ago.
"You can't say you'll fund the band, the sexual expressive activities, the lesbians, then single out worship as the one thing you won't fund," said Tim Kruse, the foundation's director of development and small groups.
Faced with a potential lawsuit and the scrutiny of angry legislators, Wiley is reviewing his decision. He is expected to deliver his final verdict as early as today. The Roman Catholic Foundation, which serves thousands of Catholics on and off campus, dates back to 1907. The organization coordinates a variety of services, including Masses, religious lectures, theater productions and service projects. It funds part-time positions for nine students, a priest, three nuns and four laypeople, and owns two buildings on campus. One building includes a chapel and a room where meals are provided for the homeless.
All of this costs the foundation nearly $900,000 a year. Most of that money comes from private donations and offerings at Sunday Masses.
Funding request follows ruling
It wasn't until the 2003-'04 school year that the foundation sought financial assistance from the university.
Emboldened by the Southworth decision, it began seeking $200,000 a year in student fee funding to help cover the cost of its staff, activities and overhead expenses. After the Supreme Court ruling, the UW System eliminated a prohibition on using student fee funding for "activities which are politically partisan or religious in nature." The foundation wanted a piece of the pie.
It received $44,000 the first year and $88,000 the second. But not without a fight.
"It was a tough battle," Kruse said. "When our students got up to ask for funding, they were treated like drug dealers. The committee would always grill them with question like 'What are you going to use this funding for? Do you worship while you work? Are you going to use the money for worship materials?' Which was ridiculous because worship is free speech."
Kruse continued: "But we didn't even fight them on that. We said we'll just use the money for retreats and education."
The committee of students that distributes student fee funding had reason to ask questions.
In October 2004, Luoluo Hong, then UW-Madison's dean of students, issued a memo saying that university funds could not be used to directly support the operating costs of a church or a strictly church-related activity if the money could be seen as a donation to the church or as being in lieu of other contributions to the church normally used to cover similar costs.
A memo issued the same month by the general counsel of the UW System echoed that restriction. It said segregated fees could not be used to provide gifts, donations or contributions to political or religious organizations, campaigns or candidates.
In the same memo, however, Hong said that student fees could be used to support educational and expressive activities that "are religious in nature."
The result was confusion.
"It's a very, very thin line between what can be funded and what can't," said senior Rachelle Stone, chair of the Student Services Finance Committee. "It's hard to make decisions in such a gray area."
This year, the confusion and conflict escalated, with the committee denying many of the UW Roman Catholic Foundation's requests for funding only to have its decisions overturned by a student judiciary committee.
In the UW System, chancellors and the Board of Regents make the final decisions on what to fund with student fees. This year, Wiley paid close attention to the student fee budget that landed on his desk.
In November, the regents launched an audit of student fees in the system after reports that the fees had more than doubled in the last decade to as high as nearly $1,150 a year on one campus. Wiley wanted to make sure that student fees were being distributed fairly and with caution, said Casey Nagy, executive assistant to the chancellor.
"We've been receiving a lot of calls from students and regents who want us to exercise more vigilance on expenditure of student fees," Nagy said.
In an April letter to the Student Services Finance Committee and the broader student government, Wiley took issue with a number of student fee funding decisions. Most controversial, though, was his challenge of certain items in the UW Roman Catholic Foundation budget on the ground that they were too religious.
Wiley called into question Bible studies and other activities that he said appeared to be "intrinsically religious." Funding the printing of Lenten booklets and weekly bulletins, he said, cannot be approved unless the foundation can demonstrate that they are being used for non-religious reasons.
Nagy said the administration doesn't see that as discrimination against a religious viewpoint. Rather, he said, the university is prohibiting funding of only those activities that are explicitly religious in accordance with the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
As the foundation sees it, the administration's position is duplicitous. "Everything we do is explicitly religious," Kruse said. That is not justification to deny it funding.
In Wiley's threat, Kruse sees a lawsuit. So does the Alliance Defense Fund, which fights for the freedom of religious expression.
"We still think that students should not be forced by the government to fund expression that they find offensive," said David French, director of the Alliance Defense Fund's Center for Academic Freedom. "But so long as the law is that those funds must be distributed in a viewpoint neutral way, we're going to fight to have that enforced."
No public universities should fund any religions groups. Any.
Madison funds Lutherans, & Orthodox, and some others, as well as the non religious groups such as Aztlan, and the Socialists..Heck, I think they may even have some socialist vegetarians..
The University does not fund it... a MANDATORY FEE charged to all students fund all types of organizations... mostly liberal. Sorry, but I think the liberal manifest of organizations require the same degree of FAITH you will find in any religious group, the difference is they worship different gods. To me they are nothing more than the Church of Liberalism.
That would be fine. I don't think that's the issue, rather the University want's the religious groups open to all, including leadership positions. I suppose if they're consistant, that's OK, but somehow the University has gotten along for a century with things the way they were.
A mandatory fee is de facto funding. I suppose today it might be best to scrap the system and let groups self-fund. Something tells me the University wouldn't like that.
Fees forced on students for services they do not need or ask for... that are extracurricular as well... are as unjust as fees charged to union members used to support political causes the students do not believe in.
If you want on (or off) this Catholic and Pro-Life ping list, let me know!
This practice goes back to the early '70's when I was in college and now with a daughter in college I realize it has grown exponentially.
Add to this the STATE mandated 'feel good' diversity classes required to obtain your degree... it's PC run amok!
Ideally there should be NO use of student fees to fund campus organizations. The organizations should be free to fundraise and support themselves. This would eliminate the controversy completely.
This would bar all Jewish organizations, right? I mean, one is either a Jew or not.
I wonder what would happen if a Muslim group applied for funding....
Well, maybe it should allow Catholics to form a college and for the university to certify classes at a university level, provided that students and teachers were qualified.
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