University of Wisconsin cuts funding for Catholic group

.- The UW Roman Catholic Foundation, serving University of Wisconsin-Madison students, cannot receive student government funding for religious activities, announced University Chancellor John Wiley.

In an April 4 letter to Associated Students of Madison officers, Wiley wrote that student funding cannot go toward a church-related religious activity, nor can any student organization based off campus receive money for electricity, gas, water or rent, reported the Madison Capital Times.

This means the off-campus group stands to lose $35,462 for electricity, gas and water. Tim Kruse, the Catholic foundation's development director, said he received the news on April 13th and interpreted it “as nothing short of blatant systemic religious discrimination."

"They refuse to treat religious students on the same terms they treat other students," he was quoted as saying in the Times.

In the letter, Wiley said the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment bars the university from giving state money for religious activities. He voiced concern about the Roman Catholic Foundation's use of student funding for personnel like a librarian, accounting assistant and student event coordinators; activities like "Friday After Class Theology" and printing jobs like Lenten booklets.

Wiley also wrote that all groups receiving student funding must be registered student organizations. The Catholic foundation is not a registered student organization, so starting next year, unless it becomes one, it will not be eligible for student funding, reported the newspaper.

If the chancellor's cut stands, it would overrule a decision by the UW Student Judiciary, and possibly send the matter into litigation.

In February, the student government approved a $147,000 budget for the Roman Catholic Foundation after the Student Judiciary made it clear that it must fund activities that include religious expression.

The student government is expected to respond to Wiley with a letter later this week. Wiley is expected to make his final decision about the budget after reading the letter, said Rachelle Stone, chairwoman of the Student Services Finance Committee. After that, the organizations can appeal the decisions.

Other off-campus groups affected by the cuts include Sex Out Loud, the environmental group CFACT, the Jewish Cultural Collective and the Tenant Resource Center.