ASUU legislators discuss funding religious groups

For being so small, one sentence in a clause of a section of an article in Redbook is creating some big concerns among religious groups and others at the U.

“The Associated Students of the University of Utah will not fund religious activities,” it says, and it has been in the books for quite some time now.

Despite that, religious groups like the Student Interfaith Council, the Latter-day Saints Student Association and the Muslim Students Association have received funding this year from ASUU.

The clause is part of the Financial Policies and Procedures article of Redbook. The entire article was recently revised by ASUU. When the bill went to be passed by the Senate and the Assembly last January, someone noticed the clause.

Last Thursday the Student Senate approved the revisions to Redbook, but only after striking the clause completely.

The General Assembly decided to do the same last night, but not without some debate.

For Andrea Muhlestein, Assembly vice chair, it is not a question of whether or not the U’s religious groups can receive funding, but rather what is legal under the US and State Constitutions.

“We shouldn’t discriminate…we just need to stay within the law,” she said.

To ensure that, Muhlestein said the issue will be presented the U’s lawyers to see if funding religious activities is indeed legal. According to Muhlestein, some other state Universities don’t give religious groups nearly as much money as the U can give, which is up to $5,000 per academic year. That is the same amount that USU made available to their entire body of student groups this year. It is also the amount that the U’s LDSSA received.Dan Kimball, president of LDSSA, says the money helps them to do bigger activities with more students, like the football kickoff or the Thanksgiving dinner they held last semester.

The Muslim Student Association received nearly $4,000 this year in student fees, and used a majority of the money on Islam Awareness week, which included a Ramadan dinner. The Student Interfaith Council, with representatives from seven different religions, also received money to operate.

None of the activities of the clubs are exclusionary to students on campus.

However, Muhlestein said religious groups in the past have received student fees for “educational pamphlets,” which she equates with proselyting material. Some Assembly members don’t believe things of that nature ought to be bought with student fees.

That is what the U lawyers in general cousel will determine in the future.

Once they decide what is acceptable to fund, another bill will go before the Assembly-sources say in April-for ratification or rejection.

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