Tennessee legislators look to defund campus police for political correctness rules
Republicans in the Tennessee State Legislature have introduced legislation that would defund campus police departments at state universities if their administrators adopt rules that force student organizations to accept applicants regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
The bill was introduced after administrators at Vanderbilt University, created a controversial “all-comers” policy in response to a Christian fraternity’s decision to remove a gay member over a dispute about the fraternity’s stance on homosexuality.
Tennessee State Rep. Mark Pody (R), who co-authored the bill with Sen. Mae Beavers (R), said he believes that Vanderbilt’s policy violates the Tennessee Constitution and restricts religious freedom on campus.
“I’m trying to ensure that they uphold the Tennessee State Constitution,” Pody told Campus Reform, referring to Tennessee's public universities. “Religious Freedom…includes who they worship with and where they worship.”
“I believe that it’s a very sacred right granted to us by the Constitution and I want to do my best to uphold that,” he added.
Pody also introduced legislation last year that would have directly overturned Vanderbilt’s policy.
That legislation passed by both state houses, but it was eventually vetoed by Republican Governor Bill Haslam.
"Although I disagree with Vanderbilt's policy, as someone who strongly believes in limited government, I think it is inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution," said Haslam at the time of his veto.
The bill is currently moving through both houses of the Tennessee legislature and would look to punish any Tennessee universities that creates such a rule by removing state funds for their police department.
The legislation“prohibits operation and maintenance of a campus police force by an institution of higher education...if the institution requires a student organization to allow any student enrolled at the institution to participate in the organization regardless of the student's beliefs or status.”
A member from the affected Fraternity was contacted, but he stated that their national offices do not want them to comment on the issue at this time.
Pody is also sponsoring another bill that would explicitly forbid public universities in Tennessee from adopting the policy, but it would not affect Vanderbilt since it is a private institution.
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