UTICA, N.Y. - A federal judge ruled Monday in favor of two students at the State University of New York at Albany, affirming 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.
The opinion issued in the case, Amidon v. State University of New York Student Association, by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York relied heavily on previous decisions on the matter, including Southworth v. Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, argued by ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1999. Lorence applauded Monday's decision.
"This excellent decision makes clear that public universities cannot use a referendum to fund student organizations because then it becomes a popularity contest. The popular groups receive funding, and the unpopular groups--namely conservative and Christian student organizations--do not receive funding," Lorence said.
Lorence also pointed out that the judge in the case not only ruled in favor of the two students, but also ordered that a portion of the mandatory student fees they had paid be returned to them.
"The constitution does not allow SUNY officials to use preferential treatment in allocating these funds to student groups, and while conservative groups may be a minority on campus, they cannot be treated as second-class citizens," Lorence explained. "SUNY will have to find a constitutional way to fund student groups."
ADF-allied attorney Tom Marcelle was lead counsel on the case. The full text of the opinion can be read here.
In addition to funding the Amidon case, ADF is involved in a lawsuit against another SUNY school regarding their discrimination against religious speech.
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.