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Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

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Bloomberg Law

Citation. 22 Ill.515 U.S. 819, 115 S. Ct. 2510, 132 L. Ed. 2d 700 (1995)

Brief Fact Summary. Petitioners brought suit after respondents refused to allot them student activities funds for their organization, Wide Awake Productions, which was organized to publish Wide Awake, a Christian philosophical magazine.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. This case stands for the proposition that a university cannot use the Establishment Clause as a means for suppressing the speech of a publication, when it seeks to exercise its First Amendment rights to freedom of the press.


Facts. A group of students formed a Contracted Independent Organization (CIO) at the University of Virginia, entitled Wide Awake Productions (WAP), which was organized for the purpose of publishing a magazine, which expressed Christian philosophical and religious viewpoints. When the Petitioners, Rosenberger and other members of WAP (Petitioners), submitted for funds from the Student Activities Fund (to which they were entitled, due to their CIO status) for printing costs, they were summarily turned down, because their publication expressed religious viewpoints, which might be construed as the views of the public university. The Petitioners filed suit, alleging that the Respondents, the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia’s (Respondent), refusal to allot them a portion of the Student Activities Funds was an abridgment of their First Amendment Rights.
The District Court granted summary judgment for the Respondent, noting that the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution (Constitution) prohibited it from funding religiously-motivated activities. The Court of Appeals affirmed, and the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) granted certiorari.

Issue. The underlying question in this case is whether a school’s refusal to fund a religiously motivated activity, under its Establishment Clause Obligations, can be allowed to abrogate the freedom of the press enjoyed by a student-run magazine.

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