210 Pittsboro Street
Campus Box 6210
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-6210

T 919-962-2091
F 919-962-2279


For immediate use

Aug. 25, 2004 -- No. 393

University reiterates non-discrimination
position in Christian fraternity case

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser today (Aug. 25) issued the following statement in response to reports of a pending lawsuit in connection with a case involving a religious fraternity, Alpha Iota Omega:

"This university strongly encourages students to nurture their moral, spiritual and religious lives. We have nearly 5,000 students who belong to our 42 recognized religious student groups, the overwhelming majority of them being Christian. We are a public institution, and we cannot discriminate. Thatís the law. And thatís why we are very comfortable with the position that weíve taken on this issue. Membership in recognized student groups must be open to all students on a nondiscriminatory basis. We think our position strikes the right balance between First Amendment rights to freedom of association and the rights afforded by the Fourteenth Amendment and the North Carolina Constitution to freedom from discrimination."

Neither Moeser nor university officials will comment on details about a lawsuit. Moeser outlined UNCís position in an Aug. 12 letter responding to allegations by The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The letter is posted at New postings to that Web site include a statement of support approved this week by the Campus Ministersí Association endorsing the universityís current practices in working with religious student organizations. The statement is signed by clergy working with students from eight denominations. They say none of these groups "has experienced discrimination based on our particular form of religious expression by the University. Not accidentally, none of our groups have within their by-laws exclusive clauses that require a particular religious affiliation for membership."

Key facts:

There are 595 recognized student organizations on campus that adhere to the universityís nondiscrimination policies.

Alpha Iota Omega is not banned from campus. Because of its refusal to comply with the universityís nondiscrimination policy, however, it is not eligible for privileges available to recognized student groups, including priority access to university facilities for meetings and funding from the universityís Student Congress.

- 30 -

News Services contact: Lisa Katz, (919) 962-2093