The Muleskinner
The Latest at UCM
Chick-fil-A robbers still at large
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor Chick-fil-A in the Elliott...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Stay cool, stay classy
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist As soon as finals are...
Student lived above reproach: Dylan Austin, who died in a skateboarding accident, is fondly remembered at UCM
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor A UCM student died...
Spring ball: Q&A with Mules football
by Brendan Wade Reporter Mules football began the first...
‘Spring Awakening’ review (COMMENTARY)
by Erica Nowlin Columnist Last week, the UCM Department...
One punch at a time, student fights his way to Rio
by Steven Spears News Editor Eddy Guillen hadn’t even...
Outdoorswomen: Top-ranked Jennies track and field goes for gold at MIAA conference meet
by Alex Agueros Sports Editor Jennies track and field...
A response to The Student Freedom of Association Act
by Derek Pritchett and Jeffrey May Guest Columnists Periodically...
Faces of UCM: Kyra Woods
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter Kyra Woods advises everyone to...
Name card pick-up
Undergraduate students graduating on Friday, May 8 or Saturday,...
Comedy and improv club coming this fall
UCM students are preparing to start a new comedy...
UCM track and field throwers measure success differently
by Alex Agueros Sports Editor How do you measure the...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Bills to allow religious student groups to restrict membership
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor State legislation being debated...
UCM FSL celebrates Greek Week
by Alex Agueros and Jacque Flanagan Muleskinner Staff It...
‘Spring Awakening’
by Paul Joyner Photo Editor The UCM Department of...
Mules baseball clean on senior day
by Tristan McClelland Reporter The Mules did it again,...
Bike of birds
by Andrea Lopez Features Editor Birds, bikes and babies....
UCM hosts sexual assault awareness fair
The Office of Mentoring, Advocacy and Peer Support is...
Give a gift with purchase: Pay it forward
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist When you purchase clothes, you...
Faces of UCM: Preston Billingsley
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter “Treat everybody with respect –...
KC Chiefs mascot speaks to FCA
KC Wolf, the Kansas City Chiefs mascot, will speak...
Lights, camera action: Films promote social change
by Erica Nowlin Reporter The UCM College of Arts,...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Students build houses for spring break
by Shelby Bilbruck Reporter While most students spent their...
‘Spring Awakening’: A tale of teenage discovery
Rock musical tackles issues of sexuality and ignorance by...
Golf competes for conference in Kansas
MULES by Brendan Wade Reporter The University of Central...
57 to 0: The true nature of sexual assault at UCM
by Mathew Martinez and Lacy Hembree Guest Columnists 57...
Need something to eat?
There are nearly 805 million people hungry around the...
The most interesting man in Warrensburg
by Andrea Lopez Features Editor He floated on an...
Four-year plan: Madison Smith
by Tremayne Fisher Reporter Madison Smith is a four-year...
Your perfect purse
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist Purses aren’t just an accessory...
Faces of UCM: Jordan Page
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter Jordan Page has a piece...
Earth Day 365
In celebration of Earth Service Day, volunteers will work...

by Derek Pritchett and Jeffrey May
Guest Columnists

Periodically the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project releases a demographic study on religious affiliation in America. In a recent report, “The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections,” an interesting trend was revealed. The number of religiously non-affiliated citizens in North America who are atheists, agnostics and religious people who don’t associate themselves with an organized church, is expected to grow by 89 percent in the coming decades. In fact, right now the “unaffiliated” make up about 16 percent of America’s religious landscape and 30 percent of millennials consider themselves unaffiliated. If you find yourself wondering why this seems to be the trend amongst our generation, look no further than Missouri House Bill 104, or The Student Freedom of Association Act.

On its face, the bill seems to be useful. Who doesn’t like freedom? Of course, upon closer examination, the legislation begins to resemble similar religious freedom bills passed nationwide. HB 104 would allow religious organizations to bar membership based on the beliefs of that organization that run counter to the beliefs or lifestyles of individual members. There are a few problems with this bill (as well as the ideas behind it) that need to be explored.

First, the legal implications behind the bill fly in the face of legal precedent set on the topic. If the law does somehow manage to pass and overcome an (almost assured) veto by the governor, its next stop would be the Missouri Supreme Court. That body would have grounds to strike the act down; Article I, Section 5 of the Missouri Constitution states that “neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, nor shall a citizen’s right to pray or express his or her religious beliefs be infringed.” HB 104 allows campus organizations to discriminate on the expression of religious beliefs.

If, for example, a member of the LGBTQ+ community wanted to join a religious group whose beliefs they shared on a campus in Missouri, they could be turned away as long as that group didn’t agree with some facet of the person’s lifestyle. In a private religious setting, although definitely wrongheaded, this would be legally acceptable. However, religious organizations on campus are run partially thanks to state funds. An act of discrimination by one of these groups is tantamount to state-sponsored discrimination. There just isn’t a clear legal justification for such a bill, and its wide-ranging authority would certainly not meet muster as “strict scrutiny” (the standards mandated by the Supreme Court on matters of religious discrimination).

Legal questions aside, HB 104 is even more insidious on moral grounds. Nominally, the intent of the legislation is to empower campus religious groups. Practically, it could very well serve a self-fulfilling prophecy. Any religious group would suddenly have the authority to banish any current or potential members who do not line up neatly with arbitrary guidelines. This exclusion of non-cookie-cutter members would do little to help any religious community in the long-term; the reason so many youth are turning away from organized religion today is because they fear that these groups aren’t being inclusive. Many in our generation are wary of joining a faith due to perceptions of bigotry, ignorance or elitism, all characteristics that would become institutionalized via HB 104. Religious groups on college campuses should serve as a support network that doesn’t judge, (Isn’t that the job for the god being worshipped?) but instead seeks to serve anyone who wishes to partake. The true power that religion has doesn’t come from insular pettiness, but instead openness and inclusion of all peoples, even if that sometimes makes some members uncomfortable. It is from this diversity that a group can gain strength.

Years ago, the Student Secular Alliance, one of the religiously unaffiliated groups on campus, would go to Baptist Student Union meetings on occasion. There was never hostility, just honest and open conversation about what it meant to be religious and a young person in the world. Even though the two groups had wildly different worldviews, almost everyone walked away intellectually stronger and with a few more friends. Our fear is that HB 104 would make interactions like this impossible. We’re afraid that exclusion will become the new norm and people will lose the support structures they need. This bill could be easily abused, and people already being unfairly targeted will suffer even more oppression from groups who should be promising love and peace. Our fear is that religious groups, the Missouri State legislature and college students all across the state will once again find themselves on the wrong side of history. Tolerance, not pettiness, should guide our public and campus policies.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: