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University Reverses Policy and Allows Religious Clubs to Base Decisions on Religion

Contact: Liberty Counsel Public Relations Department, 800-671-1776

GAINESVILLE, Fl., Jan. 23 /Standard Newswire/ -- Gator Christian Life (GCL), a religious student organization at the University of Florida, has been invited to return to its former status as a registered student organization. GCL lost that status last fall when it refused to include the University's anti-discrimination policy in its constitution. The University policy prohibited religious groups from discrimination on the basis of religion. The policy undermined GCL's ability to take religion into account in its membership, leadership, message and decision-making.

GCL turned to Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel assisted the group in formulating appeals to the University administration and drafting a letter to the University Board of Trustees. The University reversed its position, posted an announcement of the policy change on its Web site, and sent a letter to GCL confirming the new policy and inviting it to register as a student organization again.

The University added the following language to its policy: "A student organization whose primary purpose is religious will not be denied registration as a Registered Student Organization on the ground that it limits membership or leadership positions to students who share the religious beliefs of the organization. The University has determined that this accommodation of religious belief does not violate its nondiscrimination policy."

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented, "Forbidding Christian student organizations from taking religion into account regarding its leadership, membership and message violates the First Amendment. It is simply absurd to force a Christian student organization to have an atheist president. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and association. The University's reversal of its policy was not only prudent; it was required under the law."