New Web site to help defend religious freedom at universities

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Defense Fund, which represents students faced with discrimination over their beliefs, is expanding its reach to protect First Amendment liberties by establishing a new Web site and blog.

The project, announced Oct. 7, is designed to alert students to possible constitutional abuses on campus and provides information on how to combat those actions.

"Everyone agrees that America's college campuses should be the free marketplace of expression, ideas and thought," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Jordan Lorence said in a news release. "Whether those beliefs are considered 'popular' or 'unpopular' is irrelevant—they are protected by the First Amendment."

The Web site is meant to counter escalating reports of students being attacked or ridiculed by professors and staff for their religious views. The project is being monitored by the Center for Academic Freedom, which ADF launched earlier this year.

"America's colleges and universities should give Christian students the same rights as all other students, ADF Senior Legal Counsel David French, director of the Center for Academic Freedom, said in a news release. "Unfortunately, Christians are increasingly being treated like second-class citizens unless they bow at the altar of political correctness that exists at many of our nation's public university campuses.

"Our desire is to defend Christian students from having their religious expression marginalized by university officials, but we also desire to educate those officials so that they understand what the Constitution really says about the free religious expression rights of students. We do not oppose universities themselves; we simply oppose unconstitutional policies and treatment."

French said he's impressed with the information that will now be easily accessible to students.

"This new Web site will provide students and officials with the information they need, as well as offer support to those students and ministries experiencing difficulties exercising their constitutional rights on campus," the director said.

Among the available resources is a six-minute video that profiles a University of Oklahoma case in which a Christian student newspaper sued to procure equal funding from the school. ADF represented the organization in its fight.

The blog is also expected to help visitors network by offering a place where students can discuss the state of religious freedom and other pertinent, related issues on their university campuses.

The project targets five areas of campus policy that may violate students' rights. They include school "nondiscrimination" statements, which many Christian students are forced to sign in violation of their beliefs; the inclusion of "free speech" zones for all, speech codes which restrict the right to express one's views, mandatory diversity training and unnecessary or unfair treatment of religious or faith-based groups.

Teaming with ADF on the University Project are a number of national student organizations, including Campus Crusade, Christian Legal Society, Chi Alpha, Campus Ambassadors, Every Nation Campus Ministries, Intervarsity and The Navigators.

"This project allows ADF to stand with organizations that have a strong presence on college campuses to ensure the rights of students professing religious faith," Lorence said. "With their help, students will understand that practicing and expressing their beliefs does not demote them to the rank of second-class citizen."

For more information, visit the site at universitystudentspeech.org.