November 9, 2004

The "service learning" graduation requirement and religion.

The UW-Eau Claire considers changing its service requirement:
Today, the Eau Claire faculty senate will discuss a proposal that would make it so students could not perform any sort of religious practice in order to fulfill their service learning requirement.

The proposal would make it so that any volunteer work on behalf of a religious institution, such as missionary work or teaching at a religious school, would not be counted toward a student's service learning requirement. Secular work in a religious setting, such as work for religious charities like Habitat for Humanity, would still be allowed. ... While religious advocacy does not count toward the requirement, other types of advocacy, including political solicitation, will continue to be worth service learning credit.

According to the linked opinion piece, the proposal is intended to fend off lawsuits. Last time I looked, there was more to the First Amendment than the Establishment Clause. It may be hard to steer between Rosenberger and Locke here, but this looks to me like viewpoint discrimination in a limited forum, a free speech violation. The cure is, as the opinion piece suggests, excluding all advocacy from qualifying as "service learning."

No comments: