GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA, March 14, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – It took Christian students at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro almost a year, but they appear to have finally achieved their goal: the same recognition available to any other religious student group.
UNC-Greensboro released a statement on Tuesday saying it will grant the pro-life group official recognition as a student religious organization after a bureaucratic tug-of-war that began last April.
Students petitioned to form a chapter of Make Up Your Own Mind, a campus affiliate of the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center. The group’s constitution requires its members to be practicing Christians who want to spread its “Christian, life-affirming, and pro-abstinence beliefs and views on campus and to the Greensboro community.”
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Under college rules, a religious or political organization may limit membership to those who share their views. Student groups such as Vox – Voices of Planned Parenthood, the homosexual lobbying group PRIDE!, a chapter of the NAACP, even Club Akido are allowed to exclude members based on ideology.
However, university officials refused to recognize the chapter as a religious group, requiring it to sign a non-discrimination policy opening its membership to every “race, color, religion, gender, age, national origin, disability, military, veteran status, or sexual orientation.”
“The First Amendment forbids the government from determining what is and what is not ‘religious,’ yet the university is doing exactly this by telling a Christian group that it is not religious,” said Jeremy Tedesco, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney who represented the students.
The university denied the students religious status on the grounds they were “not affiliated with a church but rather a local non-profit organization.” But Tedesco says being affiliated with a church is not a requirement to qualify as a religious organization, and UNC-Greensboro recognized other campus organizations as religious without being tied to a church.
University recognition brings with it campus funding through student activity fees, the free use of university offices and web space, and the design and display of banners displaying its message. The North Carolina campus is home to nearly 200 other student organizations.
According to a legal complaint filed on behalf of MUYOM and its leader, Bryn Carmichael, the students made several attempts to cooperate without compromising their faith.
Christian students associated with the crisis pregnancy center say they last heard from the administration on November 7, when they were told a decision should be made “in the next couple of weeks.”
The ADF filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Greensboro on February 29.
Tedesco greeted Tuesday’s announcement with guarded optimism, saying he wants to observe how it is implemented before saying pro-life Christians have finally been given equal status at the college.
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