The Supreme Court's review next month of the only religion case on its docket this term could eventually open the gates to government-financed vouchers for parochial schools.

On the surface, Rosenberger v. Rector will determine whether a state university may refuse to subsidize a Christian student newspaper when it gives assistance to publications espousing other religious views. Yet the decision could have a much broader impact in reversing what some Court critics view as long-term discrimination toward Christian organizations expressing themselves in public forums.

The case involves the First Amendment rights of three Christian students at the University of Virginia who founded the now-defunct quarterly newspaper Wide Awake in 1990.

Ron Rosenberger received seed money to help launch Wide Awake from his nondenominational evangelical church. Rosenberger served as editor with Robert Prince, a Roman Catholic, and Gregory Mourad, a Presbyterian, who were the other staff members. They distributed 5,000 free copies to fellow students to "offer a Christian perspective on both personal and community issues, especially those relevant to college students at the University of Virginia," according to Rosenberger. He says the paper tried to counter the homosexual-rights and feminist vantages in other campus publications.

"Every viewpoint was out there in the public square, being subsidized by the university, except the Christian viewpoint," Rosenberger says. "There was even a lot out there at times about Christians, but it was always antagonistic or ridiculing us or, we felt, skewed in some way."

After publishing just two issues of Wide Awake, however, it became evident that advertising sales would not adequately ...

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