Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
515 U.S. 819 (1995)
UVA collected an activity fee
from students to fund on-campus groups. Funds were available to groups to
Groups couldn't get funds
for "religious activities, philanthropic activities, political
activities, activities that would jeopardize the University's tax-exempt
status, those which involve payment of honoraria or similar fees, or
social or entertainment related expenses."
Rosenberger started a
student-run magazine that published articles from a Christian viewpoint.
He applied for funds to pay for printing costs and was denied.
UVA felt that the magazine
was a "religious activity."
Rosenberger sued, claiming
that UVA was violating his 1st Amendment right to free speech.
The Trial Court found for UVA.
The Trial Court found that
UVA's bylaws were not an unconstitutional content-based nor an
unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, and that the UVA's interest in
avoiding a violation of the Establishment Clause justified not subsidizing the printing costs.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that UVA had engaged in viewpoint discrimination, which would be a
violation of free speech, but that
it would violate the Establishment Clause for UVA to subsidize the group's printing
costs from the student activities fund.
The US Supreme Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court found
that denying funds available to other student publications, but not to a
publication produced from a religious viewpoint, violates the 1st
Amendment's guarantee of free
However, the Court found
that providing funds to religious organizations would not violate the Establishment
Clause because the funds were
neutrally given to any group meeting certain criteria that requested the
So, basically, as long as
any group could get a cut of the money, it wasn't a violation of the Establishment
Clause to allow religious groups to
get a cut.