With the help of the U.S. Supreme Court last month, Ron Rosenberger, a Christian student at the University of Virginia, taught public colleges nationwide a vital civics lesson: When the government subsidizes student speech, it may not disqualify religious viewpoints.
Although the university paid the printing costs of 15 student publications, it refused to give the same benefit to Ron's magazine because it was religious. In a major step toward equal treatment of religious groups, the high court agreed that the First Amendment does not require second-class status for those who offer religious messages in the public square.
But the Rosenberger decision underscores the reasons evangelicals should join the campaign for a constitutional amendment for religious equality, which is a broad affirmation of the role of religion in American society and not a narrow attempt to return prayer to the public schools.
Decades of litigation to come?
A religious-equality amendment appears to be the only earthly alternative to additional decades of costly litigation. Rosenberger's appeal touched a hot button issue for the high court. Must government disqualify religious groups and institutions from receiving otherwise neutrally available aid?
In Rosenberger, the Court had another prime opportunity to stake clear constitutional boundary markers in this foggy bog. But instead, the justices, intractably split five to four once more, gave religious student publications a welcome victory-but without casting much light on the surrounding terrain.
The Rosenberger case involved a clash between the right to free speech and the requirement of nonestablishment of religion. The University of Virginia maintains a program to encourage private student speech ...1
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