School Can't Appeal Order to Fund Christian Group

     (CN) - The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the University of Wisconsin at Madison over a ruling that said a Roman Catholic group could get funding for religious activities.
     A split panel of the 7th Circuit ruled in September 2010 that the school had to reimburse Badger Catholic, an approved student group, for six activities labeled by the university as purely religious in nature. The money comes from an activity-fee fund that the school sets aside for student groups.
     Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote the circuit's majority opinion, which rejected the school's logic that funding religious activities is a form of government speech in violation of the Establishment Clause. Easterbrook said the group's activities reflected student speech, not speech by the school.
     "There can be no doubt ... that the university's activity-fee fund must cover Badger Catholic's six contested programs, if similar programs that espouse a secular perspective are reimbursed," the court had found.
     The 7th Circuit's ruling dismissed Badger Catholic's request for an injunction and money damages.
     The University of Wisconsin at Madison distributes about $2.5 million each year for student services, which includes counseling, tutoring and student groups. Badger Catholic receives nearly $200,000 from the fund annually, according to the ruling.
     In rejecting the school's appeal without comment, the high court gave the circuit the last word on the case.