‘All-Comer’ Block Passes

Bill Allowing Student Groups To Limit Membership Goes To Gov.

Posted: February 12, 2013

HARRISONBURG — Legislation that would allow student groups at colleges and universities to restrict their membership is now up to Gov. Bob McDonnell to sign into law.


The Senate passed the House of Delegates’ version of the bill 21-18 on Monday. It approved its own identical version, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, last week.


The House version came from Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.


The legislators say it addresses so-called “all-comer” policies that open student organizations up to people of all beliefs. Under such a policy, religious groups on campuses would have to accept atheists, for example, and College Democrats would have to welcome Republicans.


That violates one’s right to freely assemble, Obenshain said on the Senate floor Monday.


Critics argue that it takes power away from colleges and universities. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, expressed fear of going down a “slippery slope” of the government telling its higher-education institutions how to operate.


James Madison University has an open student group membership policy and is monitoring the legislative process.


If McDonnell signs the legislation into law, JMU will make any adjustments necessary to comply, spokesman Bill Wyatt said.


Contact Preston Knight at 574-6272 or pknight@dnronline.com

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