As post-election tensions rise nationwide, UW-Eau Claire came under fire for a school policy denying students community service credit for religion-focused volunteer work.
After strong GOP gains in state legislature, Republicans are speaking out about a squabble characterized as “anti-religious political correctness” by state Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, in a statement Friday.
UW-Eau Claire currently has a 30-hour community service requirement. Two student volunteers claim the university is denying recognition for time they spent as religious educators at a local Roman Catholic Church.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a national Christian non-profit defending religious liberties, is taking the university to court over the issue.
“They're singling out religiously motivated and religiously orientated community service for exclusion,” Travis Barham, legal counsel from the organization, told WEAU. “The prohibiting of students for receiving credit for activities that involve worship, religious instruction or proselytizing is unconstitutional, is discrimination and that violates the rights of the first amendment.”
Although involvement in faith-based organizations is acceptable for credit, direct promotion of religion is discounted.
According to Mike Rindo with UW-Eau Claire university relations, the requirement aims to facilitate “service-learning” with both a “service component as well as [a] learning component as it applies to the classroom” and the student’s field of study.
Perceiving a deeper issue, Nass implored the courts and state to hold the university accountable for “discriminating against two students that did nothing wrong and thoroughly deserve [everyone’s] praise for their courage,” connecting his claims to the election results in which “the people of Wisconsin sent a message … that business as usual by … public institutions is no longer acceptable.”
Awaiting the university’s response, the ADF anticipates policy change resulting from the lawsuit filed on Thursday, while Nass urged Attorney General Brad Schimel to join their efforts by denying the UW System defense in the case.