Special Reports

University of Wisconsin Faces Lawsuit For Denying ‘Religious’ Student Community Service


At the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, students are required to earn 30 hours of service-learning in order to receive a diploma. For this, students can teach and sing in a choir to earn hours - unless the teaching and choir singing is about faith.

This is the reason why two students, accompanied by Alliance Defending Freedom, a non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith, has filed a lawsuit against the school.

"No public university should ever use a community service program as a vehicle to advance and instill anti-religious bias," Travis Barham, legal counsel for ADF, wrote in the lawsuit according to a press release. "If the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire wants to require its students to perform community service, it must treat all forms of community service as equally valuable."

Barham argues that the school's rejection of the services rendered by two students, Alexandra Liebl and Madelyn Rysavy, is "discrimination against religion and unconstitutional."

Liebl gave 30 hours teaching a second-grade religious education class at a local Roman Catholic church. Rysavy, on the other hand, gave 24 hours volunteering herself in the same church's Sunday School classes. Both students helped kids gain better reading skills, learn about Biblical history, and engaged with them regarding topics such as character building and forgiveness, reports The College Fix.

However, despite the services rendered by the two students, they were denied credit for the time they spent "in promoting religious doctrine, proselytizing, or worship."

This act "singles out" faith-based activity despite the school's Service-Learning policy that says "students' sincerely held beliefs, preferences, and values will be reasonably accommodated in accepting service-learning proposals," Barham notes.

"This is raw favoritism of non-religious 'beliefs, preferences, and values' over religious ones, and that's not constitutional," Barham argued, explaining that this behavior does not go with the First Amendment which "prohibits government officials from preferring some viewpoints while exiling, denigrating, or targeting others."

This is not the first time that lawsuits were filed against UW in regards to faith-based actions. According to WND, this is the seventh case the ADF filed against UW revolving around the same issues of denying free speech to students when it comes to matters of religion.

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