A Law for Thee, But Not For Me

There seems to be a great deal of controversy swirling around Psalm 100’s decision to expel Will Thomason from the group because of differences in opinion over homosexuality. But I think the controversy is occurring for all the wrong reasons. Most of UNC’s chattering class are naturally talking about how Christians hold archaic views on homosexuality and hate gay people. Not particularly original, and not particularly interesting.

But let’s take a look at the Student Code, specifically Title V, Section 109, which reads

Funding decisions for programs, services, or events shall be made without regard to the viewpoints expressed.

According to Section 202, there are four criteria that “should be used in judging the worthiness of any group to receive funding.” Those are

A.  Representation.  SC should consider the  number of students affected  and  the  number of students involved in a project.  SC should try to anticipate this representation by looking  at past involvement, enthusiasm for the  program, current  opinions about  the  program, and  the  amount of involvement anticipated by the organization.

B. Vitality.   SC should consider how  vital  a program is to the organization.  Criteria to be considered should be the priority of the program in relation to other  programs sponsored by the organization,whether or not it is in part  a fundraising program, and  how it would affect the morale of the organization.

C. Specialization.  The Congress should consider how  unique a program is to the  Student Body. It should consider the cultural/educational value  of the program, whether or not it overlaps another program on campus, the amount of recognition it brings  to the University, and  the identification it has with the organization.

D.  Generated Funds, i.e. outside income.

Note that none of these criteria concern the political correctness of a group’s constitution (which, incidentally, must be submitted every year to the Division of Student Affairs for approval).

Now let’s turn to recent events. In the DTH article, Jared Simmons, Chair of the Finance Committee, says that “any uncertainty surrounding the group’s student organization status could give him authority to apply further scrutiny to their [Psalm 100’s] requests.”  This “rule” cannot actually be found anywhere in the Code. Title V, Section 106 stipulates that only groups recognized by UNC’s Division of Student Affairs (which Psalm 100 is) may spend student government appropriations. Uncertainty about the group’s future status does not allow Congress to apply extra scrutiny to such groups’ funding requests. Especially considering that no official review of Psalm 100’s status has been announced, it might be prudent for the Finance Committee to refrain from apply “further scrutiny” until such time as Psalm 100’s recognition is actually revoked.

Apparently, some people are above the law

Equally troubling is the tendency for some members of Congress to openly flaunt the above-mentioned rules. Foremost among these is Leah Josephson, District 6 Representative. As you’ll see in the above screenshot, she has pledged “no more funding if i [sic] have anything to do with it.” While Ms. Josephson is entitled to her own opinion, as a member of Congress (and of the Finance Committee), she is required to abide by the funding standards set forth in the Code. Pledging to ensure that a group receives no funding because you disagree with their political/religious beliefs is expressly forbidden by the Code (in addition to the ethical concerns involved) and sets you up for nice, fat lawsuit when the group is denied funding.

While members of our august body may have differences in opinion over Psalm 100’s decision to expel one of its members, such differences in opinion do not allow Congress to cut off access to (or threaten to cut off access to) student government funds. Every student at this university pays into the student government funding pot, and every student at this university has a right to that funding, provided that the criteria set forth in the Code are met. Threatening to cut off access to these resources over political differences is just as bad as expelling someone from your group over political differences. To do so is not only unethical, it is illegal.

3 comments

  1. I think I have pretty strong liberal credentials, and I find these situations so dispiriting precisely because I do believe that religion can be a force for good in the world. If Jesus were around today, though, do you seriously believe he would be spending his energy kicking gay people out of a capella groups and lobbying to prevent them from marrying? I think he would find there to be much more pressing matters to attend to.

    On the freedom of speech/association front, Psalm 100 has the right to discriminate against gay people. But the freedoms of speech and association do not carry along with them an absolute right to government support or funding, and governments can (and should) decline to support and fund groups that exclude people on the basis of protected characteristics.

    In this case, this is a university policy, not one in the student code — so you're looking in the wrong document. And Student Congress would be defunding Psalm 100 events not because they failed to meet the funding criteria for events you cite, but because Psalm 100 failed to meet the criteria for a student organization at this university. Granted, this only applies when and if the university does decide to de-recognize Psalm 100. Members of the student body, including those in Student Congress, should push for such an outcome unless Psalm 100 makes clear through both words and deeds that it welcomes members of any sexual orientation.

    The same does apply in reverse, it should be noted: if GLBTSA started excluding Christians (or people who believed that Christianity was an acceptable belief), their university recognition (and thus funding) should be revoked.

    1. "Members of the student body, including those in Student Congress, should push for such an outcome unless Psalm 100 makes clear through both words and deeds that it welcomes members of any sexual orientation."

      Guilty until Proven Innocent is the new norm it seems…

      1. No facts are in dispute here, as far as I can tell. All that's in dispute is the acceptability of those actions in relation to the university's non-discrimination policy. Thus, I'm a little confused why the presumption of innocence would be needed here — all we're talking about is whether the acts that did occur (and are not in dispute, thus no need for presumption of innocence) are acceptable.

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