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VOL. 36 | NO. 17 | Friday, April 27, 2012




College groups legislation passes Senate 19-12

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NASHVILLE (AP) - Groups at privately run Vanderbilt University and public colleges and universities could refuse to accept individuals who don't share their beliefs under a proposal that has passed the Senate despite criticism that the Legislature is being intrusive.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet was approved 19-12 on Monday. The companion bill has been placed on hold in the House.

The bill takes aim at Vanderbilt University's "all-comers" policy, which requires school groups to allow any interested students to join and run for office. Sponsors have said Vanderbilt was added on the basis that it receives state funding.

Christian student leaders have been vocal in opposition, saying their groups shouldn't be forced to admit members, and possibly leaders, who do not share their beliefs.

Under the proposal, "a religious student organization may determine that the organization's religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group ... qualify to serve as members or leaders.

"No state higher education institution may deny recognition or any privilege or benefit to a student organization or group that exercises such rights," according to the proposal.

Beavers said the provision that affects Vanderbilt just gives the university an opportunity to examine its policy and will sunset in 2013.

Nevertheless, opponents say lawmakers shouldn't be dictating policy to private institutions.

"I'm not in a position to say how a private institution ought to run itself," said Sen. Roy Herron, D-Dresden. "It's one thing to criticize, it's another thing to dictate."

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters after a speech in Nashville last week that he doesn't support Vanderbilt's policy, but doesn't believe lawmakers should get involved.

"Their policy is not one that I would be in favor of, but I don't think the Legislature probably h as a hand in," he said.

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