Missouri Republican Introduces Bill Allowing College Christian Groups to Ban LGBT Students Without Punishment

Last year, we saw a number of college Christian groups complain about having to follow the rules.

Their schools said registered student organizations — who had the benefits of free meeting space, access to funding, tables at activity fairs, and more — could not discriminate when it came to membership. Which meant they couldn’t exclude gay people from joining, and possibly becoming a leader of, their groups.

That was their complaint. They wanted the ability to kick openly gay people out of their groups because it ran afoul of their beliefs regarding homosexuality.

The schools said they were welcome to do that, but they wouldn’t be considered a registered group anymore and, therefore, wouldn’t have access to the perks that came with that.

(Image via Facebook)

Now, Missouri State Rep. Elijah Haahr (R-Obviously), above, is pushing a bill that would allow Christian groups to discriminate and receive the perks of being a registered student organization.

HB 104 says this:

No public institution of higher learning shall take any action or enforce any policy that denies a religious student association any benefit available to any other student association, or discriminate against a religious student association with respect to such benefit, based on that association’s requirement that its leaders or members adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs, comply with the association’s sincere religious observance requirements, comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct, or be committed to furthering the association’s religious missions as such beliefs, requirements, standards, or missions are defined by the association or religion upon which the association is based.

That’s a long way of saying: No college can hold back the perks of being a student group just because a group’s members are bigots.

Keep in mind that this bill is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

These Christian groups are trying to prevent LGBT students from being elected to leadership positions within their group — something that just isn’t happening anywhere. I promise you no openly gay people are cutting in line to become President of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. (Even if someone wanted to do it, they’d still need support from the other members.)

Most public universities have only a few requirements when it comes to forming a student group. Things like you have to have officers, fill out some paperwork, have a faculty sponsor, and be open to everyone on campus.

Evangelical Christian groups, like all the other ones, have to abide by those simple rules. If they can’t, they’re still welcome to meet, but they won’t get access to the same perks as the groups who remain inclusive.

They can discriminate or they can be a registered student group. They can’t have both. Anti-gay discrimination, faith-based or not, isn’t a value public universities should reward.

(By the way, I want to point out that you never see atheist campus groups fighting to ban Christians from joining or running for officer positions. This sort of bigotry seems exclusive to evangelical Christian groups.)

Anyway, back to Haahr’s bill: it’s still in the preliminary stages. There are no hearings yet. But both the House and Senate are Republican-dominated. Governor Jay Nixon, however, is a Democrat. So let’s hope this bill goes nowhere.

(Thanks to Charles, a member of our State Legislation Tracking Project, for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.