All-Comers Ban Returns, Limited to State Schools

Last year, state lawmakers tailored a bill to also ban the all-comers policy at Vanderbilt University. Photo courtesy VU

Last year, state lawmakers tailored a bill to also ban the all-comers policy at Vanderbilt University. Photo courtesy VU

State legislation meant to undermine Vanderbilt University’s anti-discrimination policy for student groups is rising from the ashes. Last year a similar bill was slapped down with Governor Bill Haslam’s first veto.

All-comers rules have been adopted at several elite universities, including Harvard. Vanderbilt’s anti-bias policy allows a student to join any club and bars organizations from requiring their leaders to hold certain believes.

Opponents are concerned about Christian groups conceivably having to instate an atheist as their club president. State Senator Mae Beavers of Mt. Juliet says the state should ban all-comers policies, at least as far as it can.

“We’re bringing that back, to apply to our public institutions – the ones we can affect – to make sure that you’re not forced to accept people who do not believe the same way you do.”

Last year the governor vetoed similar legislation. He said it infringed on the rights of a private institutions but also agreed with banning all-comers policies at public universities. A state Attorney General’s opinion says limiting the ban to state schools would be constitutional.

Senator Mae Beavers is part of the newly-formed Tennessee Religious Freedom Caucus. She says the bi-partisan group of lawmakers will support her bill and watch for other possible infringements on religious freedom.

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