House OKs campus faith groups restricting membership

Kansas Statehouse (KSN News)

TOPEKA, Kansas – A proposal to allow faith-based organizations on Kansas college campuses to restrict their membership has passed the legislature and was sent straight to the governor’s desk.

KSN spoke with representatives and students at Wichita State to learn more about the bill.

This is a proposal that has been in the making for quite some time now and while some say it boosts religious freedom for campus organizations, others believe it only discriminates against individuals.

But KSN wanted to get both sides of the argument.

“Freedom for who?” asks Theo Mawia, a member of Connect Campus Ministries at WSU.

The bill is described as an ‘exercise of religious freedom” but some don’t see it that way.

“I think it’s counterproductive to what an educational and academic institution would have in its interests,” Mawia said.

His organization puts an emphasis on Christian values but invites people of all beliefs and backgrounds to participate.

“We like to emphasize on the teachings of Christ, which is love, tolerance, kindness and acceptance,” he said.

Mawia sees SB 175 as something that might discriminate against certain students on a college campus, where he says exploring and participating in different faith options should be encouraged.

“I think it’s very important that we have this space where people can express and explore in fields that they would usually not explore,” he said.

KSN wanted to find out where the idea for the bill came from so we reached out to Republican Rep. Craig McPherson, who actually carried the bill on the House floor.

He said without this kind of law, faith-based groups face their own discrimination.

“There’s that additional freedom that has always been protected in the first amendment as well for free association of religious groups,” McPherson said.

We also spoke with the chairman of the Kansas Federation of College Republicans who is in favor of the bill.

In an emailed statement he said,

“College organizations should have the autonomy to decide leadership and membership to its organization; particularly those whose purpose is of value, faith, or mission based.”

Representative McPherson also pointed out that this proposal doesn’t favor any particular faith or ideology.

 

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