|Rep. Matt Krause|
The bill defines “student organization“ as any organization that is composed mostly of students enrolled at an institution of higher education or a private or independent institution of higher education and that: is registered with the institution; receives student organization resource fee revenues or other funding from the institution; or is otherwise recognized as a student organization by the institution.”
The broad definition, and the mention of student activity fees (this is a fund paid into by all students that is then dispersed to student organizations to pay for activities), could create a situation, if this bill becomes law, where student organizations with discriminatory membership practices could threaten the school with retribution by the state if they are not given access to funds to finance their missions.
The constitution guarantees both the freedom of speech and the freedom of association. That means that any person can form a club around whatever stupid or hateful idea they want, and they can claim that their club is based on their religious beliefs, but what Krause is suggesting in this bill is a radical expansion of those rights. Under Krause’s bill not only would these clubs have a right to exist (which they do) they would have a right to financial and material support from the people of Texas.
Religion is a powerful force in our society, which is why every civil rights gain in our nation’s history has been opposed by groups claiming faith as the basis of their opposition. From slavery to suffrage from civil rights to the freedom to marry, hiding behind religion has long been an effective tool for those opposed to equality. HB 360 does not protect religious freedom, it denigrates people of faith by legitimizing the use of their beliefs as a shield for hate.
Under Krause’s bill a student chapter of the Ku Klux Klan could be entitled to funds and to the use of school resources for meetings and events, since the Klan claims that their hatred of people of color is based on biblical teachings.
(Don’t believe me? Here’s a video from a Memphis news station last week where the local Ku Klux Klan explains “"We're not a hate group, we're a Christian-based group.”)
Universities are laboratories for thought. That means that a wide variety of student organizations, including ones that hold opinions that are discriminatory, should be allowed to operate on campus. That being said, university administrations still need the leeway to be able to practice discretion regarding discriminatory organizations and students attending public universities should certainly not be forced to fund organizations that actively discriminate against the student body.