The Chronicle’s View: Religious groups should be funded by ASUU

The Associated Students of the University of Utah Senate and Assembly have recently tackled an issue that may have constitutional ramifications. The question is whether or not religious student groups may receive funding from the ASUU legislative bodies for various religious activities.

In the ASUU Constitution, Article IV, Section 3 states that “ASUU will not fund religious activities.” This is based on Article I, Section 4 of the Utah State Constitution, which provides that “The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Some ASUU senators and Assembly representatives are concerned that if the two groups continue to even partially honor religious groups’ funding requests, they will be in direct violation of the ASUU, state and U.S. Constitutions. It’s the all-too common separation-of-church and-state debate-only this time, resurrected within the walls of ASUU.

The real intent of the constitutional amendment is still open to interpretation. But all of the fuss over funding religious groups is completely unnecessary. Although ASUU is the U’s form of “student government,” and though it is structured after the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, it is not a part of either federal or state government.

It is generally good policy for ASUU to follow constitutional rules, such as preserving the right to free speech. But as it pertains to funding guidelines, ASUU should not subject to the laws found in both the state and U.S. Constitutions.

ASUU has an annual budget of more than $1 million, some of which is used to fund student groups. But these funds are generated entirely from student fees, not from state funds. Therefore, even if the intent of the separation clause is to completely separate church and state, it has no relevance in the case of religious groups being funded by ASUU.

Religious groups at the U provide a significant contribution to campus life. They plan worthwhile events that are generally open to the entire student body. Cutting funding for these groups will paralyze most of them, preventing them from servicing the needs of their members and reaching out to other students on campus who wish to participate.

With any hope, the voices of reason in ASUU-which seek to strike the cause preventing the funding religious organizations-will overpower those who blindly see ASUU as an extension of state and federal government.