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ADF-allied attorney wins case against SUNY Albany for using majority rule to sidestep equal treatment for Christian and conservative student groups

Related Case: Amidon v. State University of New York at Albany

NEW YORK — An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney secured a legal win Tuesday on behalf of two students at the State University of New York at Albany.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit agreed that the university treated the students unfairly by allocating mandatory student fees in a manner that effectively excluded conservative and Christian student groups on campus from receiving funding other groups receive.  ADF provided funding for the case.

“Access to student funds should be fair and equal.  While conservative groups, including Christian ones, may be a minority on campus, university officials are not permitted to treat conservative student groups on campus as second class,” said ADF-allied attorney Tom Marcelle, who served as lead counsel on the case.  “This ruling affirms that very basic constitutional principle.”

The 2nd Circuit agreed that it is unconstitutional for universities to allocate mandatory student fees to student groups by referendum--that is, by using majority rule to determine which groups will receive the funding.

In its decision, the court cited a previous decision on the matter, Southworth v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, which ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999.  In 2005, a lower court hearing the case against SUNY officials relied heavily on the Southworth decision.

“SUNY officials cannot use a referendum to fund student organizations, because then it becomes a popularity contest, where the popular groups receive funding and the unpopular groups don’t,” Marcelle explained.

A copy of the ruling issued in the case Amidon v. State University of New York at Albany can be read here.


ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.

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