.- The University of Wisconsin-Madison announced this week that it would refuse to recognize a University of Wisconsin Catholic Student group, the second Catholic organization it has refused to ok in as many months.
On Friday, a university official explained to The Associated Press that the school rejected the application of the UW Roman Catholic Foundation to be a registered student organization this academic year because only three of its 12 advisory board members are students. The board of the Catholic Foundation is mostly staffed by clergy and benefactors who wish to support the student programming at the school and maintain foundational stability among the constantly changing student population.
The result is that the Catholic group cannot receive student fees, reserve space on campus, recruit students at school events, or use “UW” or “University of Wisconsin” in its title.
Casey Nagy, top aide to Chancellor John Wiley, told the AP that the group could be recognized if it restructures its board. It could also receive funding if its programming is open to all students and does not violate the separation of church and state.
Last month, the school refused to recognize Catholic fraternal group, the Knights of Columbus, because of its requirement that members be Catholic.
The Catholic Foundation group runs St. Paul's Catholic Center, which serves the school's estimated 12,000 Catholic students. According to the AP, while St. Paul’s Catholic Center traces its history on campus to 1883, it officially opened in 1909. It was the first Catholic chapel at a secular university in the United States and the group claims 30,000 alumni.
Foundation spokesperson Tim Kruse said 90 percent of those using the center's services are students. He said the board includes community leaders, such as Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, to manage its budget wisely.
Kruse reportedly said that the school’s decision “is just the latest in a series of disingenuous attempts by the university to hide under policy and procedures that were only intended so that they could discriminate against a religious viewpoint."
According to the AP, the Catholic group had coincidentally filed a complaint last week with the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging that the university had discriminated against the religious group by illegally attempting to cut or limit its funding.
Kruse alleges the school repeatedly violated court rulings that mandatory student fees be awarded without regard to the viewpoint of the group.
After a yearlong dispute, Wiley approved $145,000 in student fees for the group in May, even though he complained that much of the money may violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public money from being used to support religion.
According to records at St. Paul’s a portion of the money went for running an evangelical ministry, holding prayer groups, and printing Lenten booklets. These actions elicited the threat of a lawsuit from the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation.