Thursday, December 18, 2008

CLRF Challenges Boise State's Religious Discrimination in Student Group Funding

The Center has filed suit in the Federal District Court for the District of Idaho, Boise Division, today against Boise State University officials, challenging their discriminatory exclusion of religious student groups from student activity fee funding available to all other groups. CLRF attorneys also filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction asking the Court to prohibit the Defendants from mandating and allocating student fees unless they halt their discriminatory policies.

Boise State collects a mandatory Student Activity Fee for the purpose of allowing the student government to distribute this money to student groups. However, the university expressly prohibits religious student organizations from receiving these funds, citing a provision of the Idaho constitution. In Widmar v. Vincent, the Supreme Court rejected a Missouri university's attempt to justify excluding religious student groups from university recognition, deeming its claim that the state constitution compelled it to do so was insufficient to trump the First Amendment rights of the religious student group. In Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia the Supreme Court likewise held that the First Amendment prohibits a public university from excluding religious student groups from student activity fees available to other groups.

Boise State does provide student fee funding to the Secular Student Alliance, an atheist student group that proclaims a purpose to advocate for "non-religious world views."

In addition to the exclusion of religious student groups, the complaint also alleges that Boise State’s policies permit discrimination against other student groups on the basis of their views.

Bruce Skaug of Goicoechea Law Offices in Nampa, Idaho also represents the Plaintiffs.

The Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction filed in Cordova v. Laliberte with the Federal District Court for the District of Idaho, Boise Division can be viewed here.