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Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

    Brief Fact Summary. A student group challenged the University’s decision to stop paying its printing bills because the group expressed religious views.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The state may not exercise viewpoint discrimination even when the limited public forum was created by the state.

    Facts. A registered student group may submit its bills to the University of Virginia (Respondent) for payment as long as the organization is not classified as a religious or political group. Each semester every undergraduate student is charged a mandatory fee of $14.00 to help support the cost of student organizations. Rosenberger’s (Petitioner’s) group was recognized as a registered student organization. However, Respondent refused to pay the printing bill for the publication of the group’s magazine because Respondent deemed it a religious activity.

    Issue. Did Respondent violate the First Amendment by refusing to authorize payment for the printing of a religious student magazine?

    Held. No. Viewpoint based restrictions are not proper when a university allocates funds to encourage a diversity of views from private speakers. By prohibiting viewpoint discrimination this holding does not infringe upon the Respondent’s right to speech.

    Discussion. When the government creates a forum for speech it may exclude a class of speech based on content if the limitation preserves the purpose of the forum. But viewpoint discrimination is not permitted when the speech would otherwise be included in the limited forum. Respondent’s denial of funding to Petitioner is viewpoint discrimination because the guidelines of the fund do not exclude religion as a subject matter. More importantly, Petitioner was never classified as a religious organization. If it had been, it would have never been recognized as an official student organization.


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