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Case

Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

Last Updated: 5/29/2020

Overview

What's at stake

  • The right of religious student groups to receive university funding on an equal basis with other student groups.
  • The protection from government discrimination against you because of the message you want to express.
  • The freedom of the press to produce content without censorship

Summary

A student group at the University of Virginia that published a Christian newspaper was denied funding to cover the costs of printing the paper, even though the university made this funding available to other student publications. Administrators denied the students’ request for funding because of the Christian viewpoint of the publication, and because they erroneously believed that funding the newspaper would violate the First Amendment rule against establishing a state religion.  The students filed a lawsuit, with funding by Alliance Defending Freedom, to challenge this denial and protect their right to not be discriminated against because of their Christian viewpoint.

Both a federal trial court and a federal court of appeals ruled against the students, but the United States Supreme Court heard their case.  The Court ruled in the students’ favor, holding that the denial of funding to the Christian newspaper constituted illegal viewpoint discrimination, and that a neutral funding program does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  Religious student groups were entitled to receive funding and other benefits on campus on an equal basis with other student groups, and they may not be denied because of their religious viewpoint.

Our role in this case

Alliance Defending Freedom provided funding to the students’ legal team and filed an amicus brief in their support at the United States Supreme Court. 

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