SA deserves praise for new bylaws policy

By Editorial Board

Is atheism a religion?

Is a group that openly supports a position on abortion still just a social group?

Is lobbying for the decriminalization of marijuana a political activity?

There are no right answers here, and the answers are really up for debate no matter how you answer them. But this is the problem the Student Association has been facing for the past couple of years: What do you consider to be a religious organization or a political organization?

The answer should matter to all of us: The SA has an explicit policy that forbids SA funds going to SA-recognized groups that are political, religious, pre-professional, charges dues and/or Greek. For some groups, it’s pretty easy to draw the line: the College Republicans, the Pre-Law Society, Campus Crusade for Christ…you already know what that organization is about.

But in the past two years, there have been a couple of organizations that have challenged this notion.

Specifically, the Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers, Advocates for Choice, and most recently, the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, have all raised questions what is considered a religious and/or political organization.

Before Sunday, the SA did not seem to have any guidelines on this; at least, guidelines that were not written down or made public.

Now, with their updates to their bylaws, hopefully these number of cases will drop down to zero. The guidelines are, according to Monday’s story, “if part of their activities or purpose is to run informational campaigns or lobby federal, state or local legislative bodies. Organizations are religious if they were founded for the purpose of religious worship.”

The only problems that could arise from this are the definitions of “informational campaigns” and “lobby.” Suppose the parent group of an organization begins to lobby Congress for funds, but the student groups do not; what happens then?

In addition, suppose a local chapter of the American Cancer Society distributes literature about the importance of checking one’s self for breast cancer, does this qualify as an informational campaign?

We admit that this is splitting hairs, but these are questions that will come up if one group insists that it’s a social group, while the SA considers them to be a political organization. It’s something to think about.

The SA deserves praise for addressing this issue so early on in the semester. While there will always be debate on individual groups, at least the SA as a whole now has guidelines on who’s considered what. Let’s hope this will make the debates less contentious in the future.