Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia

Respondent University of Virginia, a state instrumentality, authorizes payments from its Student Activities Fund (SAF) to outside contractors for the printing costs of a variety of publications issued by student groups called “Contracted Independent Organizations” (CIO’s). The SAF receives its money from mandatory student fees and is designed to support a broad range of extracurricular student activities related to the University’s educational purpose. CIO’s must include in their dealings with third parties and in all written materials a disclaimer stating that they are independent of the University and that the University is not responsible for them. The University withheld authorization for payments to a printer on behalf of petitioners’ CIO, Wide Awake Productions (WAP), solely because its student newspaper, Wide Awake: A Christian Perspective at the University of Virginia, “primarily promotes or manifests a particular belie[f] in or about a deity or an ultimate reality,” as prohibited by the University’s SAF Guidelines. Petitioners filed this suit under 42 U. S. C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, that the refusal to authorize payment violated their First Amendment right to freedom of speech. After the District Court granted summary judgment for the University, the Fourth Circuit affirmed, holding that the University’s invocation of viewpoint discrimination to deny third-party payment violated the Speech Clause, but concluding that the discrimination was justified by the necessity of complying with the Establishment Clause.

X