According to LifeSite.com, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is a publicly funded school that gives out credits for rendering volunteer services and community service.
However, as two students soon discovered, the university has a bias about what it will dole out credits for and what it won’t. More accurately, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will give you credit for volunteering at a Planned Parenthood, but it will not give you any credit for volunteering at a location that involves Christian beliefs.
Two university students were refused credit for leading a class of Catholic youth to understand Christianity, Latin, and Biblical history, to improve their reading skills, and to understand character integrity and interpersonal forgiveness. Alexandra Liebl and Madelyn Rysavy concluded the university is bias against service learning in a religious environment because the classes met at a Catholic church and focused on Christian values and beliefs.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) agreed with the students and filed a legal complaint alleging their constitutional rights were violated because “no public university should ever use a community service program as a vehicle to advance and instill anti-religious bias.”
There is nothing in the rulebooks at the university that say a student cannot engage in religious volunteerism, and according to their rules, students may still receive credit for their community service choice, even if the university does not endorse it.
“If the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire wants to require its students to perform community service, it must treat all forms of community service as equally valuable,” says Travis Barham, attorney at the ADF. “The Constitution and federal court precedent prohibit it from targeting religious community service and denying students credit for it. That kind of animosity toward and discrimination against religion is unconstitutional.”
“This is raw favoritism of non-religious ‘beliefs, preferences, and values’ over religious ones, and that’s not constitutional,” Barnham said later. “The university prohibits students from receiving service-learning credit for activities that involve religious instruction, persuasion, and recruitment, but it awards credit—and even encourages students to seek credit—for activities that involve the same forms of expression from a non-religious perspective. But the First Amendment prohibits government officials from preferring some viewpoints while exiling, denigrating, or targeting others.”
The legal complaint filed by the ADF can be read here.
It should be noted that the University of Wisconsin has a history of seeking to punish its Christian students for practicing their faith.
This includes the case of Lance Steiger who hosted bible study in his dorm room for those interested. Steiger was told he must desist or face “disciplinary action,” because it might make he and his fellow Christian students less “approachable.” The university also refused to recognize a Christian student group called InterVarsity, stating that the group violated their nondiscrimination policy.
And these are just two of seven examples of how Christians have had to fight discrimination at the University of Wisconsin.