Education Editorial: Higher Ed organizations

By: Bill Bosher - email

Virginia Senate Bill No 1074 has made its way through the Senate and has now cleared the House Education Committee. The focus of the bill is on political and religious groups in higher education institutions and states that groups may organize themselves, select their leaders, develop their missions, choose their members, define their doctrines, and resolve their disputes.

The second section of the legislation provides that a higher education institution that has allowed this for some organizations may not discriminate against others. The legislation makes sense; however, there may also be cautions.

The federal "Equal Access Amendment" of 1984 was an effort to insure that students in high schools would have an equal opportunity to participate in activities. The leading advocates were religious groups who wanted to guarantee that "Bible studies" would be given the same right to organize on campus as non-religious groups.

The results had some unintended, if not perverse, consequences.

First, the same access that was argued for Bible study groups was Constitutionally used to argue the formation of gay-straight clubs. Secondly, school officials learned that equally accessible could also mean equally inaccessible.

The remedy for some school districts was to prohibit the organization of any clubs or activities.

The reality, in a democracy, is that everyone has the right to be different. When the government argues sameness (equal) rather than fairness (equity), it perhaps renders itself to be exclusive rather than inclusive. The doors do not open wider…they close!

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