Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Campus Groups Bill in Senate ; Campus: Bill Ends 'All-Comers' Policy

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Campus Groups Bill in Senate ; Campus: Bill Ends 'All-Comers' Policy

Article excerpt

Advocates and opponents converged on Monday to debate the merits of legislation designed to prevent public universities and colleges in Kansas from adhering to policies opening religious campus organizations to all students.

Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said the Senate Judiciary Committee should advance a bill that would free campus religious groups from accepting people as members who don't share that group's faith.

The core of Senate Bill 175 would prohibit university administrators from imposing "accept-all-comers" policies.

"Universities that institute such policies do so under the guise of nondiscrimination," Schuttloffel said, "but in fact use them to target specific religious student groups whose beliefs are not in favor with academic elites."

He said it was absurd for a university to compel an evangelical student association to accept an individual to the group despite lack of certain beliefs in God.

Vickie Sandell Stangl, representing the Great Plains chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the measure would provide religious student groups with authority to "sanction discrimination" at public higher education institutions.

She said the legislation would upend policies at Kansas State University and The University of Kansas that prohibit discrimination in the form of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

The bill would grant campus religious groups "the right to discriminate against student members on the basis of any of these characteristics if that discrimination is religiously based."

"Instead of treating all groups equally, this bill is designed to treat religious groups specially, and to force schools to support discriminatory speech and conduct," Stangl said.

Senate Bill 175, introduced in early February in the Senate budget committee, would bar a postsecondary institution from enforcing any policy denying religious student associations benefits offered other campus groups. …

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