Jesuit College Refuses Recognition of Pro-life Group with Christian Leaders

( [email protected] ) Dec 29, 2003 10:50 AM EST

According to recent sources, the Gonzaga School of Law, a Jesuit college in Washington state, refuses to recognize a student pro-life group because of its requirement of the leaders to be Christians.

"Why not allow a Jewish, Muslim or nonreligious student to be head of the caucus, when they could be equally concerned about pro-life issues as a Christian student?" Gonzaga spokesman Dale Goodwin said.

The Student Bar Association prompted the decision not to recognize Gonzaga Pro-Life Caucus, calling the group biased with the discriminating religious restriction. This will prohibit the group from meeting on campus and applying for funding.

"The university supports the SBA in this case because any form of discrimination seems unwarranted," Mr. Goodwin said.

The SBA acts as an agent of the law school in recognizing student groups.

However the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is stunned of the law school's stance.

"We live in a strange age when a Catholic Jesuit university would deny a Christian pro-life group recognition because of its religious nature," said Greg Lukianoff, director of legal and public advocacy for FIRE, a nonprofit group dedicated to free speech and religious freedom.

"It is sad enough when secular institutions do not recognize the value of religious freedom. Gonzaga University, as a Catholic institution, owes its very existence to America's commitments to religious liberty and voluntary association," Mr. Lukianoff said.

According to SBA minutes of Sept. 23, SBA President Albert Guadagno and others complained that the Christian leadership requirements of the Gonzaga Pro-Life Law Caucus were discriminatory.

Ashley Horne, a second-year law student and co-founder of the pro-life caucus, felt her group wouldn't be recognized so she contaced David DeWolf, a Gonzaga law professor, and asked his opinion.

After discussing with Daniel Morrissey, Gonzaga Law School Dean, and Mike Casey, the university's counsel, Dewolf came up with the decision to support the opinion that "university policy permits restricting a group's leadership [or even membership] to those committed to the group's religious purpose."

However Guadagno still insisted that the causcus' leadership regulation violated both Gonzaga University's and Gonzaga Law School's mission statements. The caucus continued to seek recognition, clarifying the group's "essential Christian identity and mission" but Guadagno refused to consider the caucus's revised application.

Casey, the Gonzaga counsel, did not deny the initial opinion on this matter but he says he now supports the position the university has taken.

"The Student Handbook is a contract between the university and a student. The handbook says groups [at Gonzaga] are open to all students."