Religious Debate in State House Precedes Idling of Anti-All Comers Bill

The state House Thursday night debated how to protect Christian groups from having to follow a university rule intended to prevent discrimination. Both sides claimed Jesus Christ was on their side. But the sponsor finally dropped the bill into parliamentary limbo.

Vanderbilt earlier this year told campus organizations they couldn’t discriminate when students wanted to join. Christian groups said it kept them for being sure their members and leaders followed the faith.

Republican Mark Pody’s proposed law just told public schools – under the state’s control – they couldn’t have such a rule.

On the House floor Republican Bill Dunn of Knoxville offered an amendment to force Vanderbilt – a private school – to follow the legislature’s wishes too. He points out that the university receives state-funded scholarship money. Dunn also took a dig at Vanderbilt for exempting greek organizations from the policy.

“And I think Vanderbilt’s a perfect example of a place where, ‘We don’t really care if we screw the religious organizations,’ but we’re gonna make sure we take care of our fraternities and sororities because that means something to us.”

After thirty minutes of religious debate, with Dunn’s opponents quoting Jesus and Paul, the sponsor gave up and placed the bill on “the desk,” a parliamentary location which is usually a final resting place for issues too hot to vote on.

The Senate version of the bill was set for the floor three weeks ago but has been waiting for action. It remains on Friday’s Senate agenda.

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The bill is HB 3576 Pody/ SB 3597 Beavers.

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