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Disturbing article

I found this article in my hometown newspaper and it really disturbed me.

Type your cut contents here.I found this article recently in my hometown paper and it really upsets me. Let me know your opinions.

Christian groups challenge policy
They say campuses refuse to recognize membership rules
BY RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated Press

MADISON — Armed with a recent federal appeals court ruling, Christian student groups are challenging University of Wisconsin campuses' decisions to refuse to recognize them over their allegedly discriminatory membership requirements.

At UW-Madison, the Knights of Columbus has been stripped of its longtime school recognition because only men who are Catholic can become members, adviser Mark Etzel said Tuesday. The move means the Catholic service organization cannot recruit members on campus or meet in university buildings, he said.

At UW-Superior, the student body has refused to recognize the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship because its leaders have to sign a statement that they have Christian beliefs, the group's adviser said.

In both cases, university officials cited a policy that prohibits recognized groups from discriminating on the basis of religion and sexual orientation.

"The UW System, by imposing this nondiscrimination policy on student groups, is essentially banning Christian groups from meeting on campus," said David Hacker, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund's Center for Academic Freedom, a Christian legal group.

His group sent a letter to university officials this week demanding the policies be changed and threatening lawsuits if they are not. The letter from director David French warned that UW campuses were violating students' rights to free speech and association by refusing to recognize the organizations.

French cited a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruling last month forcing Southern Illinois University to recognize the Christian Legal Society despite its requirement that members pledge to adhere to Christian beliefs. Wisconsin is in that circuit and UW campuses must abide by the ruling, he argued.

"UW's actions are no different from those found unconstitutional in (that case)," he wrote. "Forcing Christian groups to accept members or leaders who disagree with their faith would have a devastating impact on their mission."

UW System spokeswoman Kate Dixon said officials were reviewing the letter and crafting a response.

DISCRIMINATION CLAIM

The controversy is the latest between UW System campuses and Christians who claim they are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.

UW-Eau Claire drew a backlash and a lawsuit when it prohibited a resident assistant from hosting Bible studies in his dormitory last year. In May, UW-Madison's chancellor approved $145,000 in student fees for the UW Roman Catholic Foundation after a lengthy battle but complained he believed it may violate the separation of church and state.

Tim Kruse, spokesman for the UW Roman Catholic Foundation, said the university has indicated it will not recognize the group as a student organization this year. He is preparing for a legal fight.

"We will show systemic discrimination against groups that are religious," he said.

Etzel said UW-Madison refused to recognize the Knights of Columbus this summer even though it has been a student group for 30 years. A university official said the group was discriminatory because it did not allow women, non-Catholics and open homosexuals to become members, he said.

"We felt like we were trying to do something good for the community and we're told we can't be recognized because we're discriminatory," said Etzel, a professor of food science. "To get students to help in nursing homes or homeless shelters, that's what our mission is. To be denied access to students really makes it difficult."

UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said the university has worked with the group to create an affiliate that could be a recognized student organization for the upcoming semester. An application for that status is pending, he said.

"We're making an effort to be responsive to their interest," Lucas said.

Ralph Seelke, a UW-Superior professor who advises the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said student leaders there turned down the group's request for $10,000 in student fees earlier this year.

They said the group, which hosts social events and Bible studies, could not be recognized because its leaders must sign a statement they believe in the Bible and that Jesus is the son of God, among other things, he said. The requirement amounts to discrimination because non-Christian students can't be leaders, they told him.

"It should be sort of in the common sense realm that the leadership of the organization must be committed to the organization," he said. "This has been puzzling."

UW-Superior spokesman Al Miller said student leaders denied recognition of the group, citing rules requiring equal access for all students.

"Because officers have to declare their allegiance to God, that raised questions in their mind," he said, adding Chancellor Julius Erlenbach upheld the decision based on legal advice from UW System.

Miller pointed out that the Campus Crusade for Christ was recognized and received more than $2,000 in funding.
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