Shannon Grove Introduces Bill to Restore Religious Freedom on Campus

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

In response to an all-out assault on religious liberty and the right to associate freely on California college campuses, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove introduced the California Freedom of Association Act on Friday.

Breitbart News brought you this story on Sep. 11 of last year, when it first broke. Within a week, I drafted a letter to California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White, demanding answers:

While I know that it is no longer popular at your institution to study the Constitution as it was written and amended, your decision to deny a Christian group the right to assemble as a recognized organization on campus, is a blatant violation of the First Amendment.   The claim that this group violates the CSU policy of inclusion is laughable.

The cited policy is inherently intolerant of virtually all individuals who adhere to any faith.

Academia has long prided itself on embracing diversity. Unfortunately, the reality is far different.  Academia is dominated by leftists whose definition of diversity is only skin-deep. When it comes to embracing diversity of thought, your policy is predictably intolerant of anyone who holds beliefs that differ from yours.

Chancellor White responded that CSU had every right to enforce its longstanding anti-discrimination policies, and refused to reinstate the rights of affected groups. 

Today, Assemblywoman Shannon Grove introduced a bill—the California Freedom of Association Act—that addresses this serious threat to a student’s religious rights on-campus.  

These rights were severely curtailed over the summer, when the California State University system started enforcing its new “open membership” policy, which mandates that membership and leadership positions within recognized student organizations must be open for all students, even if those students disagree with the purpose or beliefs of the club.

Practically, thiat means Christian clubs can’t require their leaders be Christian, Democrat political groups must admit registered Republicans as voting members, and Jewish groups have no way to stop a crowd of Holocaust deniers from taking over.

Although most belief-based student clubs changed their constitutions to accommodate the new policy, several groups did not. One of those groups was InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), a campus organization dating back to the 1870’s in England and the 1930’s in America. IVCF refused to change its bylaws, which requires its leaders to hold certain beliefs consistent with the Christian faith.

In response, CSU officially “derecognized” IVCF as an organization at 19 CSU campuses.  As a result, IVCF no longer has access to on-campus buildings for meetings, is unable to participate in student fairs, and has lost all other rights granted to other student organizations.

“Since this country’s founding, persecuted political and religious groups from around the world have flocked to this country because of America’s freedom of association protections,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove in a statement. “These rights are protected outside the university setting among our churches, political parties, non-profits, and advocacy groups, so why not give these same freedoms to our college students within our public universities?”

“Real tolerance allows differing groups to hold diverse points of view,” Grove added. “But this new policy turns this state’s anti-discrimination protections on their head and uses them to discriminate against the very people they were meant to protect.”

If passed, the California Student Freedom of Association Act would require the governing boards of University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges to let student organizations have requirements for their leaders or voting members to ensure they adhere to the organization’s viewpoints or sincerely held beliefs.

“Our public universities should be preparing students for real life,” Grove said. “Students shouldn’t expect to be welcomed into leadership positions within groups they disagree with, but that is what this policy is teaching them to expect.”

Let’s hope that enough Democrats are concerned about protecting students’ rights and fostering real and robust intellectual, political and religious diversity. That starts with respecting the right of individual students to associate freely with whomever they please without government interference.


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