School must allow religious groups to pick leaders based on belief if it wants to keep state funding

The Tennessee legislature made good late Monday on its threat to crack down on Vanderbilt University, passing a bill that revokes the school’s state funding if it doesn’t abandon its controversial nondiscrimination policy.

Under the policy, official student organizations must be open to anyone who wants to join, and groups must be willing to pick leaders who might not share their beliefs. Fraternities and sororities are exempt.

Thirteen Christian groups oppose the policy, saying it violates their religious liberty. But as a private institution, Vanderbilt is allowed to restrict any activity on campus, including religious groups’ freedom to meet and worship.

The state legislation originally mentioned only state schools, forbidding them from adopting similar policies. But on Monday, the bill’s sponsors in the House and Senate proposed amendments that targeted Vanderbilt.

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