Student Fees

September 15, 1999

Suppose you were required to write a check every few months for over $300, and a portion of it was used to pay for the activities of an organization that promotes homosexuality, a group that espouses Communist ideology, and a women's association that advocates abortion. So even though you don't write a check directly to them, they benefit from the money you are required to pay.

The scenario I describe happens every semester on nearly every college campus in the country. Scott Southworth decided to challenge this long-standing policy. As a second-year law student at the University of Wisconsin, he brought suit in 1996 protesting the use of his mandatory student fees for such activities. He and other Christian students made repeated attempts to convince university officials to let him "opt out" of paying mandatory fees on the grounds of religious freedom. They refused to negotiate.

Now this is certainly not the first time students have complained about mandatory fees going to things they didn't like. When I was in college and vice-president of the student body, fellow students would complain all the time about mandatory fees that went toward the student union and various college services. A number complained that we used some of the money to bring in speakers like Brit Hume and illusionist Andre Kole.

So is Scott Southworth's complaint different? Yes, because the groups and programs being funded today are hostile to a Christian student's faith. Over 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson said that to "compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." The Alliance Defense Fund has taken up the case and we will have to see if the court agrees with Jefferson or the University of Wisconsin.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.