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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Religious clubs wary of state funding under new bill

    Student government and clubs are considering how new legislation, if passed, could affect how religious organizations may spend state money.

    The proposed legislation would allow student clubs to receive state funds for activities and events of a specifically religious nature or that are available only to members of a particular group or religion.

    Under current state law and UA policy, religious clubs can still request funds for activities, but only if the funds do not go

    We fund clubs based on the event, not the club. It’s our place to judge whether or not an event will be the best for the entire student community.

    – Steven Gerner,
    appropriation board director

    toward the promotion of a particular religious group and the event is open to all members of campus, said Center for Student Involvement and Leadership graduate assistant Aaron Gubi.

    “”Say for example a club wants to hold a religious event on campus and wants to request ASUA money to help pay for it,”” Gubi said. “”It’s not as easy as it is for other clubs because they’re only inviting one group of people.””

    Gubi said that if the bill passes, it will change not only which club events can receive funding, but the standards of tolerance that are currently mandated for all officially recognized clubs.

    “”If this bill passes, we’ll be forced to change the constitutions for all the clubs,”” Gubi said.

    The student government appropriation board, which is responsible for handling requests for funding from clubs, has been considering the issue since last week, said board director Steven Gerner.

    He said that while the bill could change what kind of events could receive senate approval for funding, he doubted it would change how events are evaluated.

    “”We fund clubs based on the event, not the club,”” said Gerner, a political science senior. “”It’s our place to judge whether or not an event will be the best for the entire student community.””

    Gerner acknowledged that if the bill passes, it could create some obstacles to that judging process, but that ultimately it is their job to adhere to state law and university policy regardless of how it may change.

    He said the board has also considered the possibility that greater eligibility for ASUA funds could put even more strain on the clubs budget, which was exhausted earlier this semester.

    “”That has been under consideration,”” Gerner said. “”We are looking to double club funding for next year, up to $150,000.””

    Gerner said he did not think that passage of the bill would lead to an increase in funds requested because the ASUA denied funding to only one club event this year because of discrimination issues.

    As for the religious clubs themselves, most like the idea of getting more money to support their activities, but many are understandably concerned about the ramifications of the state funding any religious event.

    “”It may be a good thing to allow money to be more freely used,”” said David Reece, a history sophomore and ASUA executive vice president elect who is also an active leader in the Campus Crusade for Christ. “”But it could be playing with fire; if it’s used in an exclusionary manner it could clearly be bad for the campus community.””

    This concern is shared by Christopher Bischof, a history junior and president of the Geniuses of Diversity, a campus club of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

    “”I think it’s a very bad thing for the state to fund events specifically promoting or attacking religion,”” Bischof said. “”I don’t even think my club should get money for bringing atheist speakers to campus.””

    Drew Alyeshmerni, a Judaic studies junior and former co-chair of Kesher, a club connecting reform Jews on campus, also has mixed feelings about the bill.

    “”We’ve had a lot of activities planned to reach out the campus Jewish community that we just couldn’t get funding for,”” Alyeshmerni said. “”It’s frustrating because we can’t get funding for events to target Jews on campus, even though we’re not being evangelical or excluding anybody.””

    But Alyeshmerni said she is worried that giving state money to religious campus organizations could set a dangerous precedent, leading to more state money being given to religious schools and missionary work.

    “”It’s really tricky because of separation of church and state,”” Alyeshmerni said. “”I would love to get money from the ASUA, but money always comes with strings.””

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