Prepared Remarks of ACLU of Colorado Executive Director Nathan Woodliff-Stanley on CO House Bill 1048, Concerning Religious Freedom for Student Groups at State Institutions of Higher Learning.
Thank you, Madame Chair and members of the Committee. My name is Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, Executive Director of the ACLU of Colorado, and I speak in opposition to House Bill 1048.
This bill would force Colorado public universities to recognize and support student groups that discriminate in violation of longstanding university policies.
I want to be clear that the ACLU strongly supports religious freedom, freedom of association, and freedom of speech, and students in colleges and universities are free to hold beliefs, express their opinions, and form groups as they wish. What they do not have the right to do is to get official recognition and public funding for these groups when they violate equal protection or nondiscrimination policies. Public colleges and universities should strive to ensure that educational opportunities are open to all, including student organizations and leadership opportunities.
The Supreme Court made clear in Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez that a university may impose viewpoint-neutral conditions on student groups such as requiring that groups receiving university funds or other privileges be open to all students. This bill essentially seeks to circumvent that ruling. Students are free to believe what they wish, but discriminatory conduct does not have to be supported and recognized. Any mandates on group conduct should be to prevent discrimination, not to allow or promote it.
The bottom line is that state funding of discriminatory organizations is wrong and harmful to students and higher education. Please vote no on HB 1048.