Widmar v. Vincent 454 U.S. 263 (1981)

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WIDMAR v. VINCENT 454 U.S. 263 (1981)

In order to avoid activity that might constitute an establishment of religion, the University of Missouri at Kansas City barred a student religious group from meeting on the campus for religious teaching or worship. The Supreme Court, 8–1, held that the University, having "created a forum generally open for use by student groups," was forbidden by the first amendment's guarantee of the freedom of speech to exclude the religious group. Because the exclusion was based on the content of the group's speech, it was unconstitutional unless necessary to serve a compelling state interest. The exclusion was not necessary to avoid establishment clause problems, for no state sponsorship of religion was implied when the university provided a forum generally open to all student groups.

Justice john paul stevens, concurring, said that any university necessarily makes many distinctions based on speech content. Here, however, the university discriminated on the basis of the viewpoint of particular speakers, and that was forbidden by the First Amendment.

Justice byron r. white dissented, arguing that the state could constitutionally "attempt to disentangle itself from religious worship."

Kenneth L. Karst

(see also: Public Forum.)

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Widmar v. Vincent 454 U.S. 263 (1981)

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