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Is a Catholic University Punishing Students for Practicing Catholic Beliefs?

By Michael Farris, Jr. posted on:
February 21, 2018

Georgetown University has found itself in the middle of controversy after the revelation that a student group at the school was not receiving donated funds and that these donations were instead going to groups antithetical to their beliefs.

Love Saxa, a student group that promotes traditional marriage consistent with Catholic teaching, has enlisted the help of Alliance Defending Freedom to look into whether the school has been funneling donations meant for Love Saxa to other student groups that promote same-sex marriage. The university is claiming the error was unintentional, but is that really the case?

Before we move on, let’s look at what the Catholic Church has proclaimed about the sanctity of marriage for hundreds of years.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”

Georgetown University is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit school in the United States. In the school’s “Spirit of Georgetown,” they promote ideals such as doing everything “ad majorem Dei gloriam” (For the greater glory of God) and educating the whole person—an ideal espoused by Jesuit founder St. Ignatius. They also say under the “Community in Diversity” section: “Derived from the Jesuit principles of equality and respect for all, Georgetown welcomes and supports a diverse community of students, faculty and staff.”

Love Saxa is committed to “promote healthy relationships on campus through cultivating a proper understanding of sex, gender, marriage, and family among Georgetown students.” Their view of marriage is congruent with what the Catholic Church teaches: Marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman.

Improbably, this caused a controversy at the Catholic university when other students created a petition that demanded the school de-recognize Love Saxa for being a “hate group.” After a weeks-long investigation and an almost four-hour meeting between school officials and representatives of Love Saxa, the school’s Student Activities Commission concluded that, indeed, Love Saxa had done nothing wrong by promoting Catholic beliefs at a Catholic school (imagine that!). The commission voted 8-4 to let the group remain a recognized student organization.

This, apparently, wasn’t enough for some people at the university, as donations meant for Love Saxa mysteriously were not going to the group, and, even more mysteriously, were going instead to other groups promoting opposing views of what marriage is. One group, the Saxatones—a music group that supports local LGBT centers—received $100 that was meant for Love Saxa. One might be able to forgive the person in charge of this transaction; Love Saxa and Saxatones have similar names.

But that doesn’t explain why one donor received a receipt showing a $50 donation, meant for Love Saxa, went instead to the university’s LGBT Resource Center. Additionally, a $250 check was never deposited to Love Saxa’s account. And after a fundraising telethon, Love Saxa was told they “[made] bank,” but the money never showed up.

With all of these strange occurrences happening—shortly after the campaign to de-recognize their group—Love Saxa reached out to ADF for help discovering why they are not receiving the donations promised to their group.

In response to an ADF letter, the school claimed that no electronic path existed to transfer the donated funds to the group and that they would correct the mistake. But it also returned $518.89 to the club.

This explanation has come under scrutiny. After all, Love Saxa had been a recognized student club for at least the previous school year, and the LGBT activist groups, who advocate for opposing positions, received the money instead. And, again, the timing of Georgetown’s investigation into Love Saxa and the misappropriation of Love Saxa funds makes this all the more suspicious.

As ADF Legal Counsel James Gottry points out: “Whoever did this isn't just stealing money from Love Saxa. They are stealing free speech from the university. And the theft must stop. In the words of Voltaire, we must teach students to ‘think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege of doing so too.’”

While the school has returned some funds to Love Saxa, Georgetown, at the time of this publication, has shown no indication that it will further investigate the matter, determine how these funds were misdirected, and prove that Love Saxa has received all funds donated to it. The school showed itself capable of standing for traditional Catholic values by not punishing Love Saxa after the initial investigation of the group, and hopefully it will hold itself to the same standard to which it holds its honor students: conducting themselves “honorably, as a responsible member of the Georgetown community as we live and work together.”

Our Center for Academic Freedom team is dedicated to monitoring situations like this at Georgetown and at universities across the country, and Georgetown will surely be closely watched in the days to come.


Find out how the ADF Center for Academic Freedom is working to defend freedom on college and university campuses across the country.

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Michael Farris, Jr.

Michael Farris, Jr.

Legal Content Manager

Michael Farris, Jr., serves as Legal Content Manager for Alliance Defending Freedom and is a Virginia-born Idaho convert.

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