Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas signed a law permitting religious groups in the state to restrict their membership on college campuses. The March 22 bill explicitly allows college groups to include only “like-minded” members.
The law is the first in Kansas to specifically apply to university campus religious groups’ right to restrict their membership, reports Christian Today. Kansas reportedly already guarantees the ability to groups and individuals throughout the state.
Supporters of the bill praised it as a necessary protection of religious freedom.
“This is a very good, narrow, targeted piece of legislation that will serve the betterment of our college campuses,” Brownback told CBN News.
The law’s opponents say it invites discrimination on college campuses.
“It is a sad and shameful day when the Legislature chooses to stand on the side of providing of providing taxpayer funds to promote discrimination,” said Michael Kubic, head of the American Civil Liberties Union in Kansas.
The measure follows controversy surrounding a Christian student group at Washburn University. The group allegedly prohibited a Mormon student from leading Bible study in the group, reports The Associated Press.
The group’s policy drew criticism from the university administration, which said that the group could not regulate the religious beliefs of its members.
The ACLU says it is prepared to file lawsuits against the measure, and that it perceives it as a “very serious” threat to religious freedom.
“It’s a step backwards to a time when government was actively enabling discrimination against people based on who they are,” said Kubic.
Brownback emphasized that the law will only apply to college groups, and claims that it will not threaten religious liberty in the state. The governor called the bill “pretty well balanced” to focus exclusively on religious groups on campuses.
Opponents of the law hold that even if Brownback’s law is well-intentioned, the state will stand to lose money from defending it in court.
The law is set to take effect July 1.