The NC House passed a bill on Wednesday that will protect political and religious student organizations from institutional discrimination at UNC constituent schools, as well as community colleges. The measure (HB 735) has already been passed by the Senate and now awaits the signature of Gov. Pat McCrory. The bill, introduced by Rep. Bert Jones (R – Rockingham), forbids constituent institutions from denying political and religious student groups official recognition or any of the privileges associated with official status (including use of facilities or funding) that are given to other officially recognized student groups. The measure also states that political or religious organizations may establish in writing the basic tenets or doctrines of their group’s mission, and then refer to the written statement to govern organizational business. The bill specifically includes provisions to allow groups to exclude from leadership roles students who do not hold to the written doctrines, as well as the right to both organize the group and resolve internal conflict in accordance with the written doctrines.
The bill is a great step in preventing institutional discrimination in the UNC system, which has come under scrutiny in the past after widely publicized cases in which the university investigated Christian student organizations after accusations that the groups denied membership to, or barred from leadership positions, students who disagreed with the organization’s core beliefs. A 2012 Carolina Journal report documents several notable conflicts between UNC administrators and Christian student groups over the university’s anti-discrimination policy.
While UNC administrators relented in both of the cases mentioned, this bill marks a significant victory in ensuring that state-funded universities and community colleges do not overstep their bounds and censor religious or political student organizations that hold contrary beliefs.