Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia
515 U.S. 819 (1995)

  • UVA collected an activity fee from students to fund on-campus groups. Funds were available to groups to pay expenses.
    • Groups couldn’t get funds for “religious activities, philanthropic activities, political activities, activities that would jeopardize the University’s tax-exempt status, those which involve payment of honoraria or similar fees, or social or entertainment related expenses.”
  • Rosenberger started a student-run magazine that published articles from a Christian viewpoint. He applied for funds to pay for printing costs and was denied.
    • UVA felt that the magazine was a “religious activity.”
  • Rosenberger sued, claiming that UVA was violating his 1st Amendment right to free speech.
  • The Trial Court found for UVA. Rosenberger appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that UVA’s bylaws were not an unconstitutional content-based nor an unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination, and that the UVA’s interest in avoiding a violation of the Establishment Clause justified not subsidizing the printing costs.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Roserberger appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that UVA had engaged in viewpoint discrimination, which would be a violation of free speech, but that it would violate the Establishment Clause for UVA to subsidize the group’s printing costs from the student activities fund.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed.
    • The US Supreme Court found that denying funds available to other student publications, but not to a publication produced from a religious viewpoint, violates the 1st Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
    • However, the Court found that providing funds to religious organizations would not violate the Establishment Clause because the funds were neutrally given to any group meeting certain criteria that requested the funds.
      • So, basically, as long as any group could get a cut of the money, it wasn’t a violation of the Establishment Clause to allow religious groups to get a cut.