By Christian Trejbal
Virginia Tech recently avoided litigation, but the reprieve could be temporary. Murky precedent leaves the school — indeed every public university — in a tough spot when an aggressive religious group comes to town.
Tech, like most universities, collects a mandatory activity fee from students — $437 for the coming year. That money pays for things that foster an engaging campus environment, including funding student organizations’ activities. Two oversight boards last year awarded $885,000 to organizations. Some received tens of dollars; some received tens of thousands.
Legally, those fees are public money because Tech is a state school. The school therefore has spending guidelines. One rule, for example, prohibits funding political campaigns.
Another rule curtailed some religious uses so that no one could accuse the school of violating the First Amendment. It read, “Organizations will not be provided funding to support religious worship or religious proselytizing. Funding requests to host religiously oriented programs, on campus and open to the community, that are educational and balanced in nature will be considered by the board.”
Trejbal is a Roanoke Times editorial writer. He is based in the New River Valley.