Good news: The Alliance Defense Fund announced earlier this week it had dropped a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina-Greensboro after the school agreed to recognize pro-life student group Make Up Your Own Mind. For almost a year, the school refused to give the group a religious exemption from the nondiscrimination policy, which meant it could not select members or leaders based on their position on abortion.
But two weeks after the ADF filed suit in March, school administrators backed down, promising to grant the group's request for recognition as a religious organization. (See our coverage of the school's decision here.) The lawyers finally unwound their legal challenge two months later. Religious liberty experts hailed the school's decision as a victory for freedom on campus, a rare commodity these days.
Bad news: Vanderbilt University administrators still have not relented on their plan to keep religious groups from operating freely on campus next semester. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship issued an open letter to administrators on Tuesday, appealing again for the right to have religious qualifications for student leaders. The school's leaders, both on the Board of Trust and in the front office, have so far been impervious to all reasoning, pleas, threats and other attempts at persuasion.
On Monday, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam made good on his promise to veto legislation passed by the state's General Assembly that would have revoked Vanderbilt's $24 million in state funding if the school didn't offer religious organizations an exemption to the nondiscrimination policy. Haslam said the legislature's attempt to force Vanderbilt's hand didn't align with his belief in limited government interference into the affairs of private institutions. But Christian students just want the right to be led by other Christians: "We simply request a policy which affirms both non-discrimination and the creedal integrity of faith-based student groups," said graduate student Ty McCleery in a news release issued by InterVarsity.
More challenges to contraception mandate: The University of Notre Dame and 41 other Catholic institutions filed suit on Monday against the federal government over new regulations that require them to provide contraceptive and abortifacient drugs and sterilization procedures to students and employees covered under their insurance plans. The new suits join at least six other legal challenges to the rules announced by President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius earlier this year as part of the 2010 health care reform legislation. Until now, most of the challenges came from schools, including North Carolina's Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, Louisiana College, Geneva College, in Pennsylvania, and Ave Maria University, in Florida.
Lawyers filed the cases, including the latest ones, in federal courts all over the country, increasing the chance the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will take one of the cases. But they might not get that far. The high court justices will rule sometime in the next few months on challenges brought by more than two-dozen states that oppose the new health care law. Opponents are hopeful, based on questions raised by the justices in three days of oral arguments earlier this year, that the court will strike down the whole thing.