Lawmakers resurrect fight against ‘All Comers’ policy

Monday, February 11, 2013 at 6:53pm

Legislators have reintroduced legislation vetoed by the governor last year that requires colleges to recognize religious student groups that discriminate against non-believers who want to join their ranks.

The push is a reaction to Vanderbilt University exercising its “all comers” non-discrimination policy last year in refusing to recognize religious student groups that deny membership or leadership positions to any student, including those who do not conform with the club’s faith.

“I’d like to see anybody be able to worship anywhere they are with whoever they choose to worship with and not have any institution tell them they can or they can’t worship with the people of their choice,” said Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, who is sponsoring several measures to protect decisions by religious student groups.

“I just think it’s a religious freedom bill. Where it is or who it is is a secondary issue. I want to make it as inclusive as I can to all parties concerned,” he said. Pody would not rule out crafting legislation that would include both public and private universities.

He and Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, have filed Senate Bill 802, which bans state higher ed institutions from refusing to recognize clubs based on the content of their speech or decisions to dictate membership based on whether students share the same faith. The legislation mirrors language filed last year that was eventually amended then vetoed by the governor.

House Bill 1046, filed today, would tie a university’s authority to operate campus police to allowing religious clubs to dictate their own membership. That legislation will be withdrawn, according to Pody, while he works out details of another piece of legislation in that same vein.

Gov. Bill Haslam vetoed the so-called “All Comers” bill last year because the legislation included Vanderbilt, a private university. Haslam said at the time it was “inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution,” but hinted he would support the move if it applied only to public schools.

The proposals introduced so far are limited to public colleges, including those that fall under the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Board of Regents which oversees six public universities and 13 community colleges.

“This is not an issue that really has been a problem, as far as I know, on any of the campuses of public institutions in Tennessee,” said John Morgan, the TBR chancellor who said the higher ed system would lobby against the bill. “It’s a little baffling as to why we would pass a bill that arises from the circumstance of an institution that the bill will have no effect on.”

10 Comments on this post:

By: Ask01 on 2/12/13 at 6:09

Yet another non issue the legislature will enthusiastically embrace while real issues are ignored.

It is akin to the gun laws which have distracted our easily distracted employees and made Tennessee a laughing stock.

By: joe41 on 2/12/13 at 8:23

The party that wants the Government to stay out of our lives interjects itself when it goes against their narrow views of the world.


By: littlegeo on 2/12/13 at 8:43

This "work" in the state leadership is baffling. Vanderbilt is a private institution. Always has been. No reason to think it won't be. What is the hope here from the perspective of the state officials, that Vanderbilt will concede to the whims of the state?

By: pswindle on 2/12/13 at 9:50

They are picking on the wrong institution. We have to vote some of these crazies out of office. TN, see what you get with an all GOP state.

By: ancienthighway on 2/12/13 at 11:02

It's truly a sad day in Tennessee when the 82% of the population that are Christian feel persecuted and need to have laws to protect their right to worship. No doubt it's those 1%ers, the Islam worshiping folk, that are causing all the problems.

What part of separation of Church and State does the State not understand? Not just at the state level, but at the federal level also.

Our Founding Fathers followed this principle and placed in the Constitution the right to Freedom of Religion due to the persecution of those that didn't follow the Church of England. They did not want a State mandated church. And here we are living in that very same country where the State is slowly working it's way to forming a State sponsored church.

Stay tuned for Crimes against the Church.

By: ConservativeSailor on 2/12/13 at 12:03

Anti-discrimination laws, Federal, State and local, apply to ALL organizations. Except, of course, the organizations that write the laws.
In this case, Vanderbilt is a "private" organization which has removed recognition of student groups that are religious in nature if the group refuses membership to other students who do not observe the same (or perhaps any) religious beliefs.
First question is why, for instance, a Muslim student would want to join a Christian group; or vice versa. I can think of a couple of reasons:
1. Genuine curiousity about others' beliefs.
2. To disrupt, proselytize, convert or act in other ways to make "non-believers" who were members believing in the tenets of the group uncomfortable. If a member disrupts meetings, then the group should be able to eject them for cause. Vanderbilt should not have a problem with that. What value is the recognition of the university? They can meet without sanction and exclude anyone they want.

The United States Constitution, and the Tennessee Constitution guarantee to The People the right to "peaceably assemble". The 1st Amendment does not limit that right by defining WHICH folks may assemble. Vanderbilt cannot prevent people of like belief to meet and to exclude people of different belief. It may only withhold RECOGNITION of the group with such practices.

The Legislature should legislate laws that have signifigance in the quality of life, the quality of government, the freedoms of the people and the control and punishment of crimes. They should not waste the time WE pay for. the salaries and per diems WE pay them on politically correct, pandering, vote-buying legislation.

By: Jughead on 2/13/13 at 3:55

Vanderbilt has joined in with 49% of the US in attacking Christianity. Meanwhile, Vandy's love of Islam flourishes.

Sick, insincere, and morally bankrupt leftists at Vandy.

By: Jughead on 2/13/13 at 3:57

Ah--I get it---the "separation of church and state" nonsense that the left libgasms upon has no place in protecting Christians.

Can you imagine if Vandy did this to a muslim group? The libtards would do cheetah flips.

By: Badbob on 2/17/13 at 6:48

The best thing to ever happen is for Mae Beavers to try to write this law. She will make it illegal to "ban or not ban" discrimination in the great way she imitates a lawyer. .

By: localboy on 2/19/13 at 10:46

"Libgasms". "Libtards". The English language is so limiting, isn't it? ;)