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To: House Education Committee
From: Christopher T. Dodson, Executive Director
Subject: Senate Bill 2320 - Protection of Student Rights
Date: March 26, 2019

Students should not lose their basic rights to speech, religious expression, and association when attending or on a public campus. Unfortunately, campuses across the nation have enacted policies that infringe on those rights. The purpose of Senate Bill 2320 is to prevent such policies from occurring at our public colleges and universities. We support those efforts and ask the committee to adopt amendments to better reflect the bill as introduced.

In addition, we urge the committee to include language to prevent campuses from adopting policies that would restrict the right of student organizations to choose leaders that reflect their beliefs and missions. These policies, sometimes called “all comers” policies, require student groups to accept anyone as a member and even leader, even if the individual disagrees with or is even hostile to the group’s mission, purpose, or beliefs. Catholics could assume control over a Baptist group, Democrats and Republicans could take over each other’s clubs, and racists could insert themselves into African-American student clubs.

In a closely divided and somewhat confusing opinion, the United States Supreme Court upheld these policies in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. The task of preventing the creation of such policies, therefore, rests with the legislature. Senate Bill 2320, which is intended to protect student free speech rights, should be amended to also protect the right of association. College Republicans have the right to be Republicans, the College Atheists have the right to be atheists, and the College Christians have the right to be Christians.

This can be accomplished with the addition of: “An institution may not discriminate against a student organization with respect to a benefit available to any other student organization, based on that organization’s requirement that its leaders or voting members adhere to the organization’s viewpoints or sincerely held beliefs or be committed to furthering the organization’s beliefs or religious missions."

Thank you for your consideration.
What We Do

The North Dakota Catholic Conference acts on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops of North Dakota to respond to public policy issues of concern to the Catholic Church and to educate Catholics and the general public about Catholic social doctrine.
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