Tennessee Bill Takes Aim at Vanderbilt’s Nondiscrimination Policy for Student Groups

Tennessee lawmakers approved legislation on Monday that could force Vanderbilt University to rescind its nondiscrimination policy for student groups, The Tennessean, a newspaper in Nashville, reported. The “accept all comers” policy bars student organizations, including religious ones, from requiring their leaders to hold specific religious beliefs, and has been at the center of a dispute between the university and some groups. The bill, passed by both the Senate and House, originally applied only to state institutions but was amended to include private institutions that receive more than $24-million in state tax revenue. Vanderbilt takes in that amount as compensation for providing free medical care at its medical center. The bill is set to expire after one year, which its Senate sponsor said was meant as a warning for Vanderbilt to work out the issue with campus groups or face more legislative action.

The U.S. Supreme Court narrowly upheld an all-comers policy at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in 2010, but left it up to a lower to court to decide whether the law school had applied its policy consistently. Challenges of other types of nondiscrimination policies at other universities have continued.

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