Students at the University of Virginia have put their administration on notice, giving them just five days to recognize their student group on campus after being denied the ability to operate on campus grounds because of their commitment to conservative beliefs.
The student group in question is the Young Americans for Freedom which represents college chapters of the Young America's Foundation. It was denied due to their requirement that chapter members and leaders affirm the Sharon Statement.
Drafted at the home of William F. Buckley, the Sharon Statement has been called a “seminal document” of the conservative movement by the New York Times, was championed by Ronald Reagan, and helped guide Republican leadership in the 1980s.
“Administrators bizarrely labeled YAF a ‘political’ group and then discriminated against YAF for requiring members and officers to affirm these basic conservative beliefs. Virginia law expressly prohibits universities from discriminating against a religious or political student group because they limit membership to those who hold the group’s religious or political views,” according to a press release from Young America’s Foundation.
The UVA YAF chapter is working with attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom saying that UVA is blatantly in violation of both the United States Constitution and state law.
“Our students’ speech and association rights are being violated by administrators at the University of Virginia. Our demand is simple – recognize the YAF chapter and change this illegal policy,” said YAF spokesman Spencer Brown. “Thomas Jefferson founded UVA; he also authored the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The irony is not lost that it is UVA that is violating its students’ rights.”
In a letter to UVA administrators, ADF senior counsel Casey Mattox demands that the school grant the YAF chapter the recognition it seeks by Wednesday and amend its policy to reflect state law.
“Public universities cannot strip student groups of what makes them unique, and they certainly can’t single out YAF as UVA has done,” said Mattox. “As an alumnus of the University of Virginia, I hope that UVA will quickly remedy this blatant violation of state law and the First Amendment and welcome YAF onto the Grounds.”