UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LOSES
Catalyst June Issue 2007
In May, the University of Wisconsin-Madison agreed to pay $250,000 in student fees next year to the University of Wisconsin Roman Catholic Foundation to settle its religious discrimination lawsuit.
The Catholic group, which has existed on the campus since 1883, was deemed ineligible by the university because some of its board members were not students and because the group allegedly violated a university policy governing nondiscrimination; membership in the group is limited to Catholics.
The former complaint was easily rectified, leaving on the table the serious matter of religious autonomy. The Catholic organization scored a victory in April when U.S. District Court Judge John Shabaz ruled that the university had violated the group’s right to freedom of association. The settlement came in early May.
Also in April, the University of Wisconsin-Superior agreed to pay $20,000 in legal fees when it lost in its bid not to recognize the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; the university complained that leadership positions were limited to Christians.
The Alliance Defense Fund, an ally of the Catholic League, won both University of Wisconsin lawsuits. David French, whose work was featured in last month’s Catalyst, won both cases.
Interestingly, Jewish and Muslim groups have never encountered the kind of harassment shown to Catholic and evangelical groups. There is something seriously wrong at the University of Wisconsin (it is hardly alone) that it takes lawsuits for Catholics and evangelicals to have clubs staffed by—of all people—Catholics and evangelicals.