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AFP-WV Key Vote Alert: Support S.B. 503: Protecting belief-based student organizations from certain types of discrimination

Mar 5, 2024 by AFP

Dear Lawmakers,

On behalf of our activists across the state, I urge you to support S.B. 503, Protecting belief-based student organizations from certain types of discrimination. This vote may be recorded in our 2024 legislative scorecard.

 Americans for Prosperity believes every American should have the power to speak, think, and act as they see fit, without hindrance from the government — as long as they’re not violating the rights of others. Yet too often today we see resistance toward a culture of free expression.

Free speech is perhaps nowhere more vital than on our college campuses, where it is not only critical to the search for truth but also to building support for the importance of constructive dialogue as today’s students become tomorrow’s leaders. That’s why our college campuses should be leading the way on free expression.

Policy reforms are important in promoting free speech, association, and a free press on campus – whether at the institutional level or through careful state legislation aimed at specific problems. Public institutions’ compliance with the First Amendment should ensure that faith-based student organizations are treated the same as secular student organizations by prohibiting the denial of any right, benefit, or privilege to a religious student organization that is otherwise afforded to other student organizations. This includes protecting the freedom of faith-based student groups to choose leaders who share the group’s religious views in the same way that other student groups may commonly choose leaders who share their views.

S.B. 503 would rightfully protect belief-based student organizations by expanding student organizations that are protected against certain types of discrimination by a state institution of higher education and expanding the types of discrimination the student organizations are protected from. The bill would allow religious organizations on state campuses to choose leaders who believe in the tenets of their religion, and not be subjected to trolls and hecklers looking to shut the organization down with false claims of “discrimination.” Sadly, in the anti-free speech climate on many campuses, this bill is necessary to protect the speech and association rights of religious groups.

Ultimately, students should be able to organize to advance a shared viewpoint. Whether a student group is political, religious, philosophical, ideological, or academic in nature, they should have the freedom to operate and select leaders and members based on the organization’s sincerely held beliefs or statement of principles.

It is for these reasons that I ask you to support S.B. 503: Protecting belief-based student organizations from certain types of discrimination.

Jason Huffman

State Director

Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia