UNC Greensboro Will Finally Recognize Pro-Life Group

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 14, 2012   |   7:56PM   |   Washington, DC

The administration at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro reversed course on Tuesday and has finally agreed to recognize a student pro-life group that has been having trouble with college officials.

Two weeks after members of Make Up Your Own Mind filed suit against the school, the pro-life organization, affiliated with the Greensboro Pregnancy Care Center, finally ended its year-long battle to gain official status and be allowed to choose leaders based on their pro-life views rather than opening themselves up to abortion advocates.

“We have apologized to [the organization] for the delay in determining their status and notified them that we are granting the organization recognition,” university spokeswoman Helen Dennison Hebert wrote in an email.

Although the Alliance Defense Fund, which brought the lawsuit against the university and applauded the school’s decision, attorney Jeremy Tedesco said he had not seen any official paperwork acknowledging the group’s recognition. Tedesco told LifeNews he would not withdraw the suit until that happens.

“Public university officials step over the line when they decide to become theologians instead and declare that a Christian club isn’t really religious. It is good to hear that UNC-Greensboro wants to right this wrong after more than 10 months of violating the club’s constitutionally protected rights. The university must make changes to its policies to make sure this does not happen again in the future. The lawsuit will continue until an acceptable policy change is made.”

“Saying that a Christian club isn’t religious is flatly absurd,” said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco, “especially when the university has granted its belief-based exception to numerous other clubs. The First Amendment forbids the government from determining what is and what is not ‘religious,’ yet the university is doing exactly this by telling a Christian group that it is not religious. The Constitution protects the right of all student groups to employ belief-based criteria in selecting their members and leaders.”

UNC-Greensboro’s nondiscrimination policy contains an exemption for student groups that select their members based on a shared set of beliefs. The exemption states, “Student groups that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership and participation in the group to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the group’s goals and agree with its beliefs.”

The “Make Up Your Own Mind” club at UNC-Greensboro applied for recognition under this exemption, but university officials denied the request, saying that the club is not religious even though the club has a clear religious mission and purpose and requires its members and leaders to agree with its statement of faith and beliefs about the value of innocent human life.

The university argued that the club is “not affiliated with a church but rather a local non-profit organization”; however, being affiliated with a church is not a requirement for qualifying as a religious organization. In addition, the university recognizes many other religious organizations that are not affiliated with a church.

After the university thwarted the club’s efforts to obtain recognition for months, the club resubmitted its request, pointing out the many statements in its constitution showing that it is a religious group. Despite this, the university failed to act on the new request, prompting the club to file suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

High Point attorney Lisa Stewart, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance, is serving as local counsel in the lawsuit, Make Up Your Own Mind v. The Members of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina Greensboro.