University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: Ban on RAs’ Leading Bible Studies

Category: Religious Liberty
Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire University of Wisconsin – Madison

The University of Wisconsin’s (UW) Board of Regents voted to uphold religious liberty on campus under its jurisdiction by permitting resident assistants (RAs) to hold Bible study groups in their dormitory rooms. Six months before FIRE advocated on the RAs’ behalf, a residential life official from UW Eau-Claire sent Christian RAs a letter notifying them that residential life officials were not permitted to host Bible, Torah, or Koran study sessions in their dorm rooms because their religious beliefs may make them less “approachable” to students who did not hold the same views. FIRE first wrote to Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson stating that the ban was unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination. FIRE then took the case public, wrote additional letters to the UW System President and the Wisconsin Attorney General, and connected an RA with the Alliance Defense Fund who filed suit. After six months of pressure, the UW Board of Regents reversed the policy.
























    • Fighting Against Political Correctness on Campus

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    • Policy allows dorms RA’s Bible study

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      by George Hesselberg Wisconsin State Journal A student who supervises student housing in the University of Wisconsin System has the same rights as the students being supervised. That simple statement reached biblical proportions Thursday when System officials recommended a policy designed to resolve an issue that erupted at UW-Eau Claire last fall. A resident assistant there was told to stop leading Bible study groups in his dormitory room. The RA, Lance Steiger, with help from a conservative foundation in Philadelphia, filed a federal lawsuit claiming his right to worship freely was violated by UW-Eau Claire’s unwritten policy – now suspended […]

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    • UW president recommends policy for resident assistants’ meetings

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    • Student’s Lawsuit Compels UW to Lift RA-Led Bible Study Ban

      August 9, 2013

      by Jim Brown Agape Press   A Christian resident assistant (RA) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has dropped his lawsuit against the school following its elimination of a ban on RA-led Bible studies. The UW’s Board of Regents recently approved a policy allowing student dormitory workers to lead Bible studies. Student Lance Steiger had sued the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire over its prohibition of RA-led scripture studies; however, as a result of the new policy, he has agreed to drop the case. In return, the school has agreed to pay Steiger’s attorneys’ fees and costs and hand him a […]

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    • Restrictive policies under FIRE

      March 5, 2007

      College life changed for RA Lance Steiger in the fall of 2005 when he contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education about a policy banning him from holding Bible studies in his residence hall. Calls pummeled his phone as his story reverberated throughout local, state and national media outlets, he said. He later filed a lawsuit against the university—while continuing to work as an RA—that ended after a UW System-wide policy change of constitutional proportions. “I felt like I needed to stand my ground,” said Steiger, a spring 2006 graduate. But Steiger’s experience, while prominent, is only one of […]

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    • University of Wisconsin sets policy on disputed Bible studies

      March 16, 2006

      MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Resident assistants are free to host Bible studies in their rooms, as well as sales or political meetings, under a policy adopted unanimously by the University of Wisconsin system’s Board of Regents. The assistants, who receive stipends in exchange for supervising students in residence halls, are warned that they should create an inclusive environment and not use their positions to coerce people to attend. University President Kevin Reilly said the policy balances students’ first amendment right to free speech against their duties as state employees. The new policy applies to the system’s 13 four-year universities. Each […]

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    • Regents pass RA proposal

      March 13, 2006

      After months of debate within the UW System with students, citizens, administrators, politicians and lawyers weighing in, the controversy concerning the activities RAs can lead in their residence halls has come to a close. On Friday, the UW System Board of Regents unanimously voted to support a policy proposed by UW System President Kevin Reilly which guarantees the right of RAs to contribute to, organize and lead meetings and other activities anywhere on campus as long as they do not use their leadership positions to coerce students into participating. “I think it’s a good, sound policy and I’m glad that […]

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    • RA-Led Bible Studies Impetus Behind Proposed UW System Policy

      March 10, 2006

      A campus watchdog group is calling on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to rescind the school’s Bible study ban and instead approve a new policy that would allow RAs lead or take part in Bible studies in their rooms. Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, has proposed a policy that would let resident assistants take part in or lead any meeting they want, including Bible studies in their rooms, provided they do not force anyone into attending. The policy, he says, encourages RAs “to take full advantage of what our campuses offer them as […]

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    • Religious studies proposal respects everyone’s rights

      March 7, 2006

      A compromise proposal before the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents resolves a potential church-state problem in a positive and common-sense way. At issue is whether resident assistants — who serve as floor leaders in university dormitories throughout the state — have the same rights as other students to be involved in political or religious activities. The issue arose in July at UW-Eau Claire, when a resident assistant was told to stop leading Bible study classes in his dorm room. The assistant, a member of the local Campus Crusade for Christ, was told by a housing official that “When you […]

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    • UW System plan pleases religious group

      March 6, 2006

      A Christian group active on campuses and a student representative of religious workers in Madison responded positively last week to news that the University of Wisconsin System proposes to give dormitory advisers the same rights as fellow students. “We welcome the recommendation that will permit residence advisers to practice their faith and study the Bible with their friends in their dormitories,” said Tony Arnold, a spokesman for the Campus Crusade for Christ. System officials have said a written policy will be proposed to the UW Board of Regents this week. The policy was created after RAs – who are paid […]

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    • Ignorance of our founding principles can endanger us all

      March 5, 2006

      Here we go again. A new survey reveals that only about one in four Americans can name at least two of the First Amendment’s five freedoms: freedom of the press, religion, speech and assembly, as well as the right to petition government for redress of grievances. But 52 percent can name two or more members of TV’s “Simpsons.” More than 20 percent of Americans actually think the First Amendment gives us the right to own and raise pets! We shouldn’t be shocked. Americans’ — especially young Americans’ — woeful ignorance of history and civics has been documented repeatedly. The good […]

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    • When freedoms clash

      March 5, 2006

      A proposed University of Wisconsin policy would give resident assistants the same rights other students have to hold meetings in their dorm rooms or elsewhere on campus. Interestingly, you won’t find the word “religion” or “Bible” or the like in the proposal, but it was a church-state flap that prompted the proposal. UW-Eau Claire warned resident assistant Lance Steiger in July to cease his practice of leading Bible study in the basement of the dormitory where he was stationed. He countered that he was exercising his right to free speech and religion. The ensuing debate went nationwide, and an evangelical […]

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    • Public opinion sought in development of RA policy

      January 26, 2006

      Inconsistency within the UW System regarding the rules for religious and political activities that RAs can partake in is one step closer to being resolved, following the Jan. 11 release of a final report by the Resident Assistant Working Group. System President Kevin Reilly now is asking for the public to comment on this report so he can develop a policy that would satisfy the majority, said Doug Bradley, a System spokesperson. The report concludes with a list of five principles outlining what the committee agreed would be the best course of action for Reilly and the UW Board of […]

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    • UWEC Bible study provokes controversy

      January 25, 2006

      An orally-communicated policy at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) sparked national discussion last semester when senior UWEC resident assistant (RA) Lance Steiger refused to cease hosting Bible studies in his dorm’s basement. The university’s controversial reaction provides the opportunity to examine Ripon College’s own stance on such behavior. UWEC’s policy prohibits RA’s from organizing or leading religious, partisan and other ideological activities or “sales-party” events in their dormitories, including their own rooms. The idea behind the rule is that such activities would theoretically discourage residents from approaching their RA’s because of their respective faiths. At Ripon, RA’s are allowed […]

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    • Univ. of Wisconsin Sidesteps System-Wide Policy on Bible Study Bans

      January 23, 2006

      A University of Wisconsin committee is recommending that two UW campuses be allowed to continue their bans on resident assistants leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms. Instead of recommending a system-wide policy, a UW committee has issued a report recommending that there not be a uniform policy on whether RAs lead Bible studies in their own dorms. The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) is currently being sued over its Bible study ban. At the same time UWEC has outlawed RA-led Bible studies, it has encouraged RAs to lead controversial plays and seminars promoting feminism. Robert Shibley with the Foundation […]

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    • He who troubleth his own house…

      January 19, 2006

      Is it reasonable for a public university in Wisconsin to require that its resident assistants abandon certain religious practices during the scholastic year? A committee commissioned by the UW Board of Regents seems to think so. Recently, an assembly of 14 student life experts — including one from each of Wisconsin’s four-year, public colleges — was called upon by UW System President Kevin Reilly. The committee, called the “Resident Assistant Working Group,” was to recommend a policy concerning the liberties a UW school can take in restricting the rights of its RAs to practice ideology in their rooms. The committee […]

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    • Network Aims to Help Harassed Campus Conservatives

      December 26, 2005

      WASHINGTON—Though Christopher Flickinger calls himself “dean” and poses in parodistic photos waving a small American flag and looking stern, he says he’s never been more serious about eliminating what he claims is pervasive anti-conservatism on college campuses today. “When I was on campus, I had no help,” the recent Ohio State University graduate told FOXNews.com. “I was harassed, intimidated, shouted down.” Flickinger, schooled in broadcast journalism, said he wants to provide the support he never had as a lonely conservative in college. That’s why in November he launched the Network of College Conservatives to act in part as “a link […]

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    • UW-Eau Claire decision limits its students’ free speech rights

      December 20, 2005

      I am a professor at UW-Eau Claire committed to the constitutional guarantee of freedom for all speech, popular or unpopular, religious or anti-religious. I am alarmed when ideas are restricted in the university. Recently interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson announced that UW-EC is no longer enforcing its unwritten ban on religious, ideological and political activities by an off-duty resident assistant in his/her dorm. I applaud this decision! UW-EC was attempting to avoid coercion and “unapproachable” RAs. Could these issues be solved by prohibitions? Consider an RA who asks a resident to join a fantasy football league hosted in the RA’s […]

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    • Bible study conflict escalates to national issue

      December 4, 2005

      Eau Claire – Last month, the interim chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire hastily called a meeting of her executive staff. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education had just contacted her to complain that a resident assistant named Lance Steiger had been banned from hosting Bible study in his dorm. The chancellor sensed imminent controversy. “I told them this will become very big, very fast,” the chancellor, Vicki Lord Larson, recalled of the meeting. Within days, word of a UW-Eau Claire policy prohibiting resident assistants from hosting religious and political activities in their dorm had spread off campus, […]

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    • University suspends policya

      December 1, 2005

      UW-Eau Claire has suspended its unwritten policy that places restrictions on resident assistants until it and the UW System complete their reviews. The suspension, which Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson announced Wednesday during her Roundtable discussion, took effect immediately because of inconsistencies found by the internal review in regard to the communication of the policy to RAs during training. “The suspension indicates that we recognize that our lack of written guidelines has caused confusion and controversy for some people,” Larson said. During the review, System President Kevin Reilly requested the university enforce the policy only if complaints are received about […]

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    • Group sues UW-Eau Claire, regents over Bible studies ban

      December 1, 2005

      MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire violated a student’s constitutional right to free speech and religious freedom in banning him from leading Bible studies in his dorm room, according to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit, filed by student Lance Steiger, asks a judge to ban the university from enforcing the policy and seeks “nominal damages” plus attorney fees. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, the same day UW-Eau Claire Interim Chancellor Vicki Larson suspended the practice of banning resident assistants like Steiger from leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms. She said a campus review […]

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    • UW-Eau Claire suspends Bible study ban

      November 30, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire suspended a practice Wednesday banning resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms after it was slammed by politicians and conservative groups as infringing on religious freedom. Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson said a campus review found the unwritten policy, which also banned resident assistants from leading political activities and sales events in their rooms, was poorly communicated and inconsistently enforced. The campus launched its review after a senior resident assistant publicly challenged the policy. The student, Lance Steiger, said he was warned he could face discipline if he continued having Bible studies […]

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    • Residents dislike Bible study ban

      November 29, 2005

      ALTOONA — Most of the approximately 15 Chippewa Valley residents who spoke Monday night regarding UW-Eau Claire’s Bible study ban were cut from the same cloth: They oppose the college’s restrictions. A public hearing at Altoona City Hall looked at the school’s policy, which prohibits resident assistants from leading or organizing Bible study sessions in their dorm rooms or the residence hall where they have authority over other students. About 55 people attended, along with Rep. Rob Kreibich, R-Eau Claire, Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, Lance Steiger, the UW-Eau Claire senior RA who first challenged the rule this summer, and Mike […]

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    • Feelings trumping rights

      November 29, 2005

      Did you hear about the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire (UWEC) banning resident assistants (RAs) from leading Bible studies in their own dormitories? That’s the subject of my latest e-mail blast from the ever-vigilant Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). This outrageous, indefensible assault on Christian religious liberties provides a perfect opportunity for the church-state separation crusaders to prove they’re really devoted to religious liberty, as they claim. Let’s see if they protest. An UWEC official sent RAs a letter forbidding them from leading Bible studies because students might conclude that such RAs were not “approachable.” Don’t laugh. […]

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    • Controversy of Biblical proportions

      November 29, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin System has not fared well this past year in the national spotlight. Last year, UW-Whitewater received a cacophony of criticism for hosting the controversial University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill Another pepper-spray finale to Halloween was covered by CNN, a high profile conservative attacked UW-Madison for being “a willing partner in the degradation of higher education.” Yet, these controversies were not the result of any direct action by the UW System and the powers that be were not responsible for their outcome. But the same can not be said about the brouhaha over the ban against […]

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    • University Asks for Legal Review of Bible Study Ban

      November 28, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire has asked the state attorney general to review the legality of its ban on resident assistants leading Bible studies in their dorms, a university spokesman said. Last July, a school administrator sent a letter to Lance Steiger, a resident assistant, informing him that students might fear they’d be “judged or pushed in a direction that does not work for them” because Steiger conducted Bible studies in his dorm. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a Philadelphia-based group that battles “political correctness” at universities, took up Steiger’s cause and asked the school to allow resident […]

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    • Proponents obtain no legal opinion

      November 28, 2005

      The state’s attorney general’s office declined to offer a legal opinion regarding the controversial University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Bible-study ban last week. The office received requests from both the UW System and the delegation of 25 Republican legislators and both parties are disappointed with the recent declination. “We got a quick response,” UW System spokesperson Doug Bradley said. “I think we had asked in hopes of getting some expert legal opinion and she declined to opine, so it is what it is.” State Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, who was among the group of 25 requesting Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager’s opinion, […]

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    • In Brief

      November 25, 2005

      Kevin P. Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System, has asked the state’s attorney general to weigh in on a dispute over whether resident assistants in university dorms can lead Bible studies. The university system prohibits resident assistants from holding activities like religious studies or political events, but one at the Eau Claire campus says his constitutional rights are being violated by the ban on his holding Bible studies in his room. The student is being supported by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

      » Read More

    • UW policy tramples on free speech

      November 23, 2005

      University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire dormitory resident assistant Lance Steiger wants to hold Bible studies in his dorm room on campus, but the school says he can’t. It cites the UW’s employment policy that prohibits resident assistants, who are university employees, from leading, organizing or recruiting students for activities such as partisan political events, religious studies or sales pitches. The school says that students may feel pressured into attending the sessions so as not to offend the resident assistant whose duties include discipline in the dorms. The resident assistants get $675 a month in addition to free room and board and […]

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    • News from Around Wisconsin

      November 23, 2005

      MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The state’s attorney general will not step into a contentious debate over a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire policy banning resident assistants from holding Bible studies in their dorm rooms. UW System President Kevin Reilly asked Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager last week for her opinion on whether the policy violated those students’ constitutional right to practice religion. Lautenschlager’s top aide, Dan Bach, turned down Reilly’s request in a letter Monday. Bach said if the attorney general were to call the policy unconstitutional, her opinion would compromise the office’s ability to represent the state should someone sue over […]

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    • Local private colleges continue to allow Bible study in dorms

      November 21, 2005

      Two local private colleges have little to worry about when it comes to state intervention in resident assistant-led Bible studies. A recent ban on private, RA-led Bible studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is under scrutiny by Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. UW System President Kevin Reilly asked Lautenschlager to assess the legality of Eau Claire’s ban on such activities since similar rules apply at other UW colleges. Ripon College and Marian College have always allowed RAs to practice their religious beliefs and, school officials say, so far there have been no complaints. The difference is neither college receives […]

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    • State Attorney General will review RA policy

      November 17, 2005

      The debate over UW-Eau Claire’s policy prohibiting resident assistants from conducting religious, political or sales-related activities in their residencies reached the state attorney general this week. UW System President Kevin Reilly enlisted the legal counsel of Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager in a Monday letter, asking for her to assess the legality of Eau Claire’s ban on such activities. A group of legislators from around the state also requested Lautenschlager’s opinion in a Wednesday letter. The System’s decision to seek Lautenschlager’s input came after Reilly and the Board of Regents recognized the legal complexity of the debate, Doug Bradley, System […]

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    • Legislators request Lautenschlager’s opinion in Eau Claire controversy

      November 17, 2005

      Twenty-five Wisconsin legislators sent a letter to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager Wednesday, asking her legal opinion on a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire policy, which they feel may be unconstitutional. The policy, which first made headlines earlier this month, prohibits resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their residence halls. “Consultations with the Legislature’s top attorneys indicate that this policy may conflict with the ‘free exercise of religion clause’ of the First Amendment,” the letter reads. “We are concerned the Bible ban puts the UW System in a precarious position with the U.S. Constitution.” Just two days earlier, the Attorney General’s […]

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    • Speech codes on campus

      November 16, 2005

      Once again, state legislators and the national media have turned their attention to the UW System. This time, their fiery gaze has zeroed in on UW-Eau Claire. Over the summer, RAs who led Bible studies during their off-hours were contacted by Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Deborah Newman and informed that they are not permitted to hold the Bible studies in their dorm rooms. The decision has been furiously condemned by numerous Wisconsin legislators and the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. For all the attention given to Eau Claire, they are not the only institution with […]

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    • Bible study ban prompts question

      November 14, 2005

      University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly on Monday asked the state attorney general to determine whether it’s unconstitutional for Wisconsin universities to prohibit resident assistants from conducting Bible studies in their dormitories. His request comes four months after UW-Eau Claire ordered resident assistant Lance Steiger to stop leading Bible discussions in the basement of his dormitory. Resident assistants at the university receive free room and board and a $675-per-semester stipend in exchange for nurturing and counseling dorm residents. University officials said that by organizing and leading Bible study in the dormitory, Steiger was placing undue pressure on residents to […]

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    • FIRE Demands University of Wisconsin Lift Ban on RA-Led Bible Studies

      November 8, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has threatened its resident assistants, or “RAs,” with disciplinary action if they hold a Bible study on their own time in their dorm rooms. A UW-Eau Claire administrator has told certain RAs the mere fact that they lead a Bible study may make some students feel they are being judged or that the RA is less “approachable.” The head of one civil liberties group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), is calling the school’s prohibition against RAs leading Bible studies “an absolute and complete absurdity.” The group has sent a letter to UW-Eau […]

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    • States: Wisconsin

      November 4, 2005

      Eau Claire – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is reviewing a directive that banned resident assistants from holding Bible study in their dorms. Last July, a university official sent a letter saying if resident assistants did that, students might not find them approachable. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education protested.

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    • This Month in FIRE History: Religious Liberty Vindicated Across University of Wisconsin System

      March 31, 2010

      In March of 2006, FIRE scored an important victory for religious liberty across the University of Wisconsin System. The case began in July of 2005, when an administrator at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire sent a letter to the school’s Christian resident assistants (RAs) ordering them to stop leading Bible studies in their dormitories. More specifically, administrators banned all voluntary studies of the Bible, Koran, and Torah that took place in the RAs’ rooms or anywhere in their dormitories. The officials believed that holding such studies would make RAs less “approachable” to students who did not share their beliefs. Despite […]

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    • Religious Liberty Vindicated Across University of Wisconsin System

      March 14, 2006

      MADISON, Wis., March 14, 2006—On Friday afternoon, the University of Wisconsin’s (UW’s) Board of Regents voted to protect religious liberty and freedom of expression on every UW campus. After six months of public pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the Regents finally approved a policy that allows resident assistants (RAs) to lead Bible studies or any other meetings in their own dorm rooms. “UW’s decision to uphold religious liberty and freedom of expression is of national significance,” stated FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “The ‘Bible study ban’ was unfair, unconstitutional, and highly unpopular.” The Bible study […]

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    • Free speech wins in new UW policy

      March 8, 2006

      University of Wisconsin President Kevin Reilly has proposed a reasonable policy on holding Bible study classes in the rooms of dormitory resident assistants. UW Regents should approve the proposal at this week’s meeting. Reilly’s plan was developed after Lance Steiger, a resident assistant at the UW-Eau Claire, was told in July to stop the study sessions. School officials felt that some students may feel they are being coerced into attending the sessions because the resident assistants are responsible for discipline and order and to refuse would put them at odds with the resident assistant. The school said it had the […]

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    • Knockin’ on heaven’s door

      March 2, 2006

      On the University of Wisconsin System’s application for a Resident Assistant position, could a candidate, through a check box promise, surrender normal student rights on attending the position? Thankfully, such may soon be an impossibility. For some time now, UW schools have been free to ban RAs from leading certain activities, such as bible studies, within their dorm rooms. On Wednesday, UW System President Kevin Reilly acted on the counsel of a group of residence-life professionals, student affairs officers and students, recommending a laudable proposal to the Board of Regents to guarantee resident assistants certain rights bestowed upon other residents […]

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    • University of Wisconsin Poised to Repeal ‘Bible Study Ban’

      March 1, 2006

      MADISON, Wis., March 1, 2006—The University of Wisconsin (UW) System is poised to restore the First Amendment rights of its student resident assistants (RAs). UW campuses at Madison and Eau Claire currently have policies banning RAs from leading Bible studies in their dormitories, but a newly proposed policy would repeal them. This move comes after months of pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). “This proposed policy is precisely what FIRE requested and what the First Amendment demands,” declared FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “We call upon the regents of the UW System to enact it as […]

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    • FIRE president speaks on campus

      February 2, 2006

      Restricting free speech to prevent people from feeling offended or uncomfortable should not be the prerogative of government or its affiliates, said Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. “It’s absurd to try to police demeaning speech,” Lukianoff said before a crowd Wednesday night in Schofield Hall. “That’s not what a free society does.” Lukianoff’s appearance at UW-Eau Claire served as a fundraiser for The Flip Side and came after FIRE’s involvement in various ideological controversies surrounding the university. He expressed his views on freedom of speech, the establishment clause of the First Amendment, the definition […]

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    • UW advances own political agenda

      January 25, 2006

      Student speech codes were supposed to be a thing of the past on this campus. But sometimes the causes of repression continue to rear their problematic heads — often in a different form. Last semester, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire resident assistant Lance Steiger sued his college and the UW System in federal court — and rightfully so — for violating his First Amendment rights to free expression and freedom of religion after prohibiting him from leading Bible studies in his room. The controversy began when Mr. Steiger was sent a letter last summer stating that his actions were in violation […]

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    • Lecture to Address Student Rights at UWEC and Beyond

      January 25, 2006

      EAU CLAIRE, Wis., January 25, 2006—Greg Lukianoff, interim president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), will speak at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) on Wednesday, February 1. Free copies of FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus, which Lukianoff co-authored, will be available. Lukianoff’s speech, entitled “Liberty in Danger: The All-Too-Frequent Quashing of Student Rights at UWEC and Nationwide,” will take place at 8 p.m. in UWEC’s Schofield Auditorium. In the speech, Lukianoff will discuss UWEC’s nationally notorious RA “Bible study ban,” which FIRE originally brought to light late last year, as well as several other […]

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    • Update: University Committee Approves Bible Study Ban

      January 19, 2006

      A committee formed to examine bans on employee-led Bible studies at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC) last week recommended that the university system president allow the bans to continue. In a Jan. 11 report, the committee of administrators and students recommended that University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly allow the university’s campuses to ban student employees from leading Bible studies in their university-funded dormitories. Reilly formed the group in December after Lance Steiger, a Christian resident assistant (RA) at the Eau Claire campus, filed a federal lawsuit against the school charging that its ban on dormitory-based Bible study […]

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    • University of Wisconsin Committee Misfires on RA Bible Study Ban

      January 16, 2006

      MADISON, Wis., January 16, 2006—The University of Wisconsin (UW) has missed yet another opportunity to demonstrate that it respects its resident assistants’ (RAs’) basic rights. A UW System committee recommended late last week that two UW campuses be allowed to maintain policies banning RAs from leading Bible studies on their own time and in their own dormitories. UW has faced months of intense public scrutiny since the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) brought the unconstitutional ban to light. “This report is a complete waste of time,” declared FIRE Interim President Greg Lukianoff. “Its authors evidently have no problem […]

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    • University Working on New Dorm Bible Study Policy

      January 13, 2006

      With the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire facing a federal lawsuit over alleged religious discrimination, the president of the state’s university system this month will develop a system-wide policy regarding student employees who lead Bible studies on campus. Lance Steiger, a Christian and a resident assistant (RA) at one of the university’s dormitories, filed his federal lawsuit against the school in November, charging that the ban on dormitory-based Bible study violated his free expression of religion. The University of Wisconsin-Eu Claire (UWEC) has suspended that ban pending the outcome of the lawsuit. University System President Kevin Reilly announced on Dec. 13 […]

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    • FIRE Advises University of Wisconsin on RA Bible Study Policy

      January 9, 2006

      On Friday, January 6, FIRE wrote to University of Wisconsin System President Kevin P. Reilly, who requested that interested parties weigh in on the development of a system-wide policy to determine whether RAs may lead Bible studies in their own dormitories. FIRE’s letter to Reilly pointed out that the UW System not only can but must allow RAs to lead voluntary gatherings of fellow students for the purpose of studying the Bible. FIRE also pointed out that some RA activities, such as private religious practice, are outside the power of the state to regulate. Stay tuned for further developments.

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    • FIRE Letter to University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly, January 6, 2006

      January 6, 2006

      January 6, 2006 Kevin P. Reilly University of Wisconsin System President 1720 Van Hise Hall 1220 Linden Drive Madison, Wisconsin 53706-1559   Re: UW Policies Banning RA-Led Bible Studies in Dormitories   Sent by US Mail and Facsimile (608-262-3985) Dear President Reilly: As we are sure you are aware, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is the organization that originally exposed the policy at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) that forbade resident assistants (RAs) to lead Bible or other holy book studies in their own dorm rooms or dormitories.  FIRE’s mission is to protect, promote, and defend […]

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    • UW president speaks up on Bible study controversy

      December 13, 2005

      Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin System, weighed in Tuesday on a policy at UW-Eau Claire prohibiting resident assistants from leading religious and political activities in their dorms, saying he believed the assistants should be allowed to do “anything they want” in their dorms as long they don’t coerce other students. It was the first time Reilly gave his opinion of the policy, which has inspired much controversy since resident assistant Lance Steiger complained publicly this fall that he had been ordered to stop hosting Bible study in his dorm. Two weeks ago, in the face of mounting […]

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    • UW-Eau Claire RA says he was ‘shocked’ by Bible studies ban

      December 13, 2005

      MADISON, Wis. – Republican lawmakers praised a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire resident assistant on Tuesday for speaking out against a school practice prohibiting him from holding Bible studies in his dorm building. Lance Steiger of Minnesota told lawmakers he was stunned when a school official warned he could face disciplinary action for continuing to have weekly Bible studies in his dorm basement. He said he had never heard of the policy even though he had been a resident assistant for two years and said it was a clear violation of his free speech rights. “I was obviously shocked,” said Steiger, […]

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    • RA files lawsuit against university

      December 5, 2005

      The controversy surrounding UW-Eau Claire prohibiting senior RA Lance Steiger from leading Bible studies in his room or residence hall now may reach the courtroom. Steiger filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court through the Alliance Defense Fund Wednesday, shortly before Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson announced a suspension of the policy the suit challenges. Kevin Theriot, an attorney with ADF, said the suit is about protecting RAs’ Constitutional rights. “This is a lawsuit to protect the free speech rights of RAs,” he said. “The restrictions … are clearly in violation of the Constitution.” Other tenets of the lawsuit include […]

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    • UW-Eau Claire Faces Lawsuit Over School’s RA-Led Bible Study Ban

      December 5, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire is being sued over its ban on resident assistants (RAs) leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms — a ban the school suspended one hour after a senior RA filed a federal lawsuit alleging UW had violated his free speech, freedom of association, equal access, religious freedom and due process rights. The university allegedly warned Lance Steiger that he could face discipline if he continued having Bible studies in his dormitory room. His attorney, Kevin Theriot with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), says even though UW-Eau Claire eventually suspended the prohibition, the school […]

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    • College should be a place of higher learning

      December 5, 2005

      I don’t recall dorm life as being for the faint of heart. Apart from hall surfing, contact highs and “the walk of shame” following an ill-advised romantic encounter, living in a dormitory requires young people to learn to put up with beliefs and behavior that may make them uncomfortable. Universities often view this as a good thing. Living among those with different values, they claim, is a “broadening” experience. Being offended can actually be educational. But not all forms of offense are equally enlightening. Exposure to vulgarity, casual sex and music reminiscent of the slaughter of cats presumably opens minds […]

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    • Battle for free expression beginning

      December 2, 2005

      It’s about damn time. Just minutes after resident assistant Lance Steiger filed a federal lawsuit against the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, UWEC Interim Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson announced the unconstitutional policy banning RAs from holding Bible studies in their dorm rooms was suspended. Ms. Larson’s e-mail announcing the change cites inconsistencies and confusion, but it was ultimately the lawsuit that changed the policy. Weeks of public scrutiny and almost universal condemnation from students, public officials and the national press failed to convince officials at UWEC they were in the wrong. Yet only 31 minutes after Mr. Steiger filed his lawsuit, […]

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    • University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Sued Over RA Bible Study Ban, Suspends Ban

      December 1, 2005

      EAU CLAIRE, Wis., December 1, 2005—The University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) has “suspended” its ban on resident assistants’ (RAs’) leading unofficial Bible studies in their own dormitories after a Christian RA filed a federal lawsuit challenging the policy late yesterday. The lawsuit and policy suspension follow weeks of intense public pressure on UWEC since the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) publicly exposed the university’s unjust and unconstitutional policy. “UWEC courted this lawsuit by ignoring the protests of FIRE, legislators, opinion makers, and the general public that this policy is both legally and morally wrong,” remarked FIRE Director of […]

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    • Eau Claire suspends Bible-study ban

      December 1, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire announced Wednesday it will suspend its controversial Bible-study ban, effective immediately. Plagued by sharp legislative criticism for nearly a month, the university will no longer adhere to an oral policy prohibiting resident assistants from leading Bible studies and other ideological activities, pending the completion of a UW System review. UW-Madison, however, will stick by its policy, at least for the time being. It is the only other UW school confirmed to enforce such a ban. “I think it’s a good policy. It’s very viewpoint-neutral,” UW-Madison Housing Director Paul Evans said. “The house fellow position is […]

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    • Student Senate Postpones Debate on Bible Study

      November 22, 2005

      [Watch TV coverage of this story on WEAU.com.] UW Eau Claire has come under scrutiny lately about a policy banning resident assistants from holding Bible studies in their dorm rooms. The issue is being researched by Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and has drawn criticism from U.S. Representative Mark Green. The UW-Eau Claire Student Senate was scheduled to discuss and vote on a resolution about the ban, but that didn’t happen. More than 40 students came to Monday night’s Student Senate meeting to hear discussion on the issue. A resolution before the Senate would have given Senators the opportunity to support […]

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    • Attorney general refuses to give opinion

      November 20, 2005

      The attorney general’s office has declined to offer an opinion on the legality of UW-Eau Claire restricting senior resident assistant Lance Steiger from hosting Bible studies in his room or residence hall. If the attorney general’s office took a position, Deputy Attorney General Daniel Bach wrote in a Monday letter to UW System President Kevin Reilly, it would be unable to defend the state or any of its affiliates in future lawsuits concerning the issue. “I think it imprudent to put this department … in the position of being unable to perform our representational functions on behalf of the state,” […]

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    • Bible ban puts policy in national spotlight

      November 20, 2005

      The voice mail was hard to decipher, especially since it was made by a friend holding his phone up to a radio. The friend told Lance Steiger that his fight with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire had made it to the national airwaves — the Rush Limbaugh show, no less. “I hadn’t thought it would be a national story like this,” Steiger said. “It” is a campus controversy that began this summer and has ballooned to involve university officials, national media and a U.S. congressman. It started when a school official wrote Steiger over summer break and told him that […]

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    • David v. Goliath

      November 19, 2005

      Lance Steiger has had a lot on his mind recently. In the past week, the UW-Eau Claire senior finance student took three exams and wrote a paper. And to top it all off, he’s also the resident assistant caught in the middle of a national debate surrounding the university’s rule prohibiting RAs from leading Bible study sessions in their dorm rooms. Steiger said he loves his school and his job, but felt he needed to question the policy when he first learned of it this summer. “This isn’t just a Christian Bible study issue,” Steiger said Friday morning seated in […]

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    • UW’s Extension of RA-Led Bible Study Ban Draws FIRE’s Protest

      November 18, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has asked the state Attorney General if it can constitutionally ban resident assistants, or RAs, from leading Bible studies in their dormitory rooms. Controversy erupted after university officials sent out a letter warning RAs they would face disciplinary action if they continued leading Bible studies; and now the school is under fire for broadening the ban to exclude other activities as well. A civil rights watchdog group, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), called on UW-Eau Claire to drop the original ban. After facing a storm of national media attention and public outcry, […]

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    • Green calls for hearing

      November 15, 2005

      The First Amendment debate surrounding the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire continued Monday, as the UW System continues to try to strike a balance between freedom of expression and the establishment clause. Early in the day, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., penned a letter to UW System President Kevin Reilly making clear his desire for the state to hold hearings investigating UW-Eau Claire’s prohibition on resident assistants leading Bible studies. Later in the afternoon, Reilly sent a letter of his own to Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager requesting her written opinion on whether the policy is consistent with the First Amendment. “This […]

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    • UW religious debate reaches Wis. lawmakers

      November 15, 2005

      In a situation that may strain the relationship between church and state in Wisconsin, UW System officials appealed to the state attorney general Monday for her input on a UW policy that forbids resident assistants from holding religious functions in dormitories. The UW System called on state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager Monday to determine the legality of the current UW System policy. Also Monday, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay, called for hearings in Congress and the state Legislature to look into the controversy which started earlier this month when some resident assistants at UW-Eau Claire complained about the policy. […]

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    • Opinion sought on Bible study

      November 15, 2005

      UW System officials asked the attorney general Monday for her opinion on whether a UW-Eau Claire policy that bans resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their dorm rooms is constitutional. The policy has prompted sharp criticism of the university, and UW System spokesman Doug Bradley said officials feel a sense of urgency to settle the matter. Kelly Kennedy, a spokesman for Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, said her office received the request late Monday and had not had a chance to review it. “This is something we need to have the chief legal mind in the state let us know […]

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    • Bible Study Ban Broadens at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

      November 14, 2005

      EAU CLAIRE, Wis., November 14, 2005—Under nationwide pressure over its ban on private, resident assistant (RA)-led Bible studies, the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) has widened its assault on basic civil liberties while engaging in a campaign of deception.  UWEC has told the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) that RAs are now and have been prohibited from “leading, organizing or recruiting students” for any organization or activity in their dorms—an assertion flatly contradicted by the evidence. “UWEC’s response to FIRE defies rational explanation,” stated David French, president of FIRE, which brought the situation to the public’s attention after […]

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    • Political Grapevine: Bible Study Ban

      November 14, 2005

      [...] Bible Study Ban Republican candidate for Governor Mark Green is demanding that the University of Wisconsin rescind what he calls its “unconstitutional” policy banning student resident assistants from leading bible studies in their own dorm rooms. RA’s who led Bible groups on their own time were threatened with disciplinary action by the university’s associate housing director, who told them students might not feel comfortable approaching RA’s who teach bible studies. But the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education accused the school of hypocrisy, noting the housing office praised an RA who put on three productions of the controversial feminist […]

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    • Bible study is speech

      November 13, 2005

      It is not true that officials at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire will be conducting room checks to make sure that students aren’t reading their Bibles or the Qur’an on state property; nor will those officials be conducting bed checks to make sure the kids aren’t praying before they close their eyes to sleep. But officials are doing something almost as silly by enforcing a non-written policy barring resident assistants from holding religious or political activities in the dorms where they work, even when those activities take place on the students’ own time. Lance Steiger, a senior at UW-Eau Claire, […]

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    • UW should dump RA Bible study ban

      November 13, 2005

      The recent flap over whether resident assistants at UW-Eau Claire (and other UW campuses) should be allowed to hold Bible study sessions in dormitories raises two issues: individual rights and the oft-mentioned “separation of church and state.” That latter phrase raises confusion because while it is tossed about in debates such as this, it does not appear in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment says Congress can “make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Translation: Government can’t have an official religion or prevent people from belonging to whatever religion they choose. It was […]

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    • How long before they ban private Bible reading?

      November 11, 2005

      Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion have never been more threatened than they are today, particularly for people who believe the Bible is sacred and its teachings worthy of study. This fact would astound the Founders, many of whom fought and bled to establish freedom of speech and religion as fundamental rights of all citizens. But then John Adams and James Madison never imagined what has our public schools have become, either. What they’ve become in too many ways is rabidly anti-First Amendment. Consider the recent ruling of administrators at the University of Wisconsin-Eu Claire banning resident assistants […]

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    • University should let RAs show their faith

      November 10, 2005

      The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has given the state’s Christian conservatives a legitimate cause about which to be indignant and outraged. School officials are reviewing their employment policies after clamping down on several dormitory resident assistants who had been leading private, voluntary Bible studies in their own rooms. RAs typically are students paid by the university to oversee dorms. Deborah Newman, associate director for housing and residence life, sent a letter to the RAs that said if the studies continued, students might not find them “approachable” or might fear they’d be “judged or pushed in a direction that does not […]

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    • Quick Takes

      November 10, 2005

      [...] The University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire has announced that it is reviewing policies that have limited resident assistants from organizing certain religious activities in their rooms. The university’s policies for its RA’s have been receiving considerable attention since the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education criticized the rules. FIRE and others have said that students’ religious rights are being violated. The university has noted that RA’s are employees of a public institution. The university announcement of its policy review stressed that the rules in place apply only to certain activities organized by RA’s in their rooms and that […]

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    • RAs, students share mixed feelings

      November 10, 2005

      It came as a surprise for senior Mike Palumbo when he heard about the policy forbidding RAs from leading religious, political or ideological activities in their rooms and residence halls. Palumbo, a Sutherland resident who attends Christian Bible studies regularly, said while he understands the university’s concern, he doesn’t believe it is acting fairly in regards to an RA’s rights.’ “There’s no one RA that can please everyone on the floor,” Palumbo said. “Being a Bible study leader, I’ve never heard anyone on the floor saying, ‘Oh, my stupid RA. He’s a Bible study leader.’ ” Senior Dawn Snyder, however, […]

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    • Banned Bible Study, Stifled Santa

      November 7, 2005

      A resident assistant in a dormitory at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire has been told that he cannot hold informal Bible study sessions in the dorm because it would amount to an illegal endorsement of religion by a state employee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lance Steiger held the weekly sessions with a small group of friends for much of last year, but over the summer he was told to stop. Deborah Newman, associate director of housing and residence life, told Steiger: “As a state employee, you and I have a responsibility to make sure we are […]

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    • Reps. blast UW-Eau Claire

      November 7, 2005

      Two Wisconsin legislators expressed outrage last week over University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s policy of prohibiting residential assistants from leading bible study groups in their dorm rooms. This policy has been attracting attention after the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education made public last week their concern with UW-Eau Claire’s policy. “Essentially what [UW-Eau Claire officials] are saying is students who become RAs have to surrender their right to pursue their faith, even within the privacy of their own dorm rooms,” U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Wis., said. Green said he talked with a UW-Eau Claire student on Sunday who has […]

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    • RA Bible study ban draws FIRE’s ire

      November 7, 2005

      It never struck senior Lance Steiger as an activity that could lead to disciplinary action; it was just something he was accustomed to doing on a regular basis. Every Tuesday last academic year, Steiger would take a Bible down to the basement of Horan Hall with some students, and they would look at a chapter or verse from in it and try to apply it to their lives. Then, while spending the summer back home in Cannon Falls, Minn., a letter from Deborah Newman, an associate director of housing, informed him that if he continued with these actions, he would […]

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    • Trumping Moses and Matthew

      November 7, 2005

      What do the Bible and the “The Vagina Monologues” have in common? Not much. But surely we can all agree that both are covered by the First Amendment, guaranteeing freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Well, that’s not so at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. At UWEC you can live in a dorm and watch a performance of “The Vagina Monologues,” but you can’t join a Bible studies group. Any resident assistant, or RA, as the live-in student counselors are called, can put on a performance of the play, and one has, but leading a Bible studies class in […]

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    • UWEC Under Fire From FIRE

      November 4, 2005

      [Watch TV coverage of this story on WEAU.com.] A national non-profit education association is criticizing a UW-Eau Claire policy prohibiting resident assistants to hold bible studies in the dorms. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education says the directive is “a shameful attack on freedom of religion.” The current policy prohibits resident assistants, or RA’s, from hosting any religious or political meetings in dorms, but they can participate in or host them anywhere else on campus. University officials say the policy is under review. “I was a little surprised that at a university like this where they promote a lot […]

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    • Bible study policy raises ire

      November 4, 2005

      Every Tuesday last school year, Lance Steiger took a Bible to the basement of his dormitory at UW-Eau Claire and led a small group of friends in a discussion about a particular chapter or verse. Steiger, a resident assistant and a junior at the time, said he was never told he could not lead a Bible study in the dorm where he worked helping students adjust to college classes and campus life. But in July, he got a letter from school administrators warning him that if he continued to hold Bible studies in his dorm this year, he would face […]

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    • Eau Claire policy comes under FIRE

      November 3, 2005

      The Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) made public its gripe with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Wednesday, claiming the UW school has “shamefully” attacked the religious freedom of its employees by prohibiting resident assistants from leading bible studies in their rooms. “As a state university, UWEC has no business forbidding RAs or any other students to engage in religious activities in their own rooms and on their own time,” FIRE President David French said in a release. After receiving a letter from the foundation nearly a month ago, UW-Eau Claire spokesperson Mike Rindo said the university is […]

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    • University denies religious freedom

      November 3, 2005

      Recently the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire has banned resident assistants from organizing and leading bible study groups in their dorm rooms. In a letter sent to a RA in July, Associate Director of Housing and Residence Life Deborah Newman justified her decision by explaining that “we have a fair number of students … who do not practice Christianity, as well as some Christians who may follow a different doctrine … It is very important to us that these students still feel that they can turn to you in a crisis, for information and hopefully that they would not feel judged […]

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    • UW-Eau Claire is reviewing legalities of Bible study ban

      November 3, 2005

      MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is reviewing the legalities of its policy banning resident assistants from leading Bible studies in their dorms, a spokesman said Thursday. The university’s associate director for housing and residence life sent a letter last July to several resident assistants who had been leading Bible studies. Deborah Newman said in the letter that if the studies continued, students might not find them “approachable” or might fear they’d be “judged or pushed in a direction that does not work for them.” Newman added that resident assistants who persist in holding Bible studies would face disciplinary […]

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    • Bible Studies Are Endangered Species at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

      November 2, 2005

      EAU CLAIRE, Wis., November 2, 2005—In a shameful attack on freedom of religion, the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire (UWEC) has banned resident assistants (RAs) from leading Bible studies in their own dormitories. The university claims the ban is necessary because some students might not feel RAs who lead Bible studies are “approachable.” “As a state university, UWEC has no business forbidding RAs or any other students to engage in religious activities in their own rooms and on their own time,” declared David French, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which has written UWEC to protest the […]

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