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Ohio State University is changing its nondiscrimination policy to allow religious organizations on campus to exclude people who don’t share their beliefs. Religious organizations will be able to restrict membership according to “sincerely held religious beliefs,” William Hall, vice president for student affairs, said Thursday. The policy has been to require student groups to allow anyone to join regardless of age, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. The change means the Christian Legal Society, a small group associated with Ohio State’s law school, can exclude gays and non-Christians. The group had been fighting the university’s nondiscrimination policy. Hall said he studied the issue for nearly a year and came to the conclusion that groups with sincere religious beliefs ought to be able to limit their membership to people with the same beliefs. “It is one of the most-difficult decisions I had to make,” Hall said. “I am personally and professionally committed to nondiscrimination in every aspect of university life.” Yet, Hall said, “I also respect those with sincere religious beliefs and their rights to organize in accordance with those beliefs.” Ohio State had required all organizations to adopt its nondiscrimination policy to receive funds from the school. Hall’s decision runs counter to a recommendation by the Council on Student Affairs, which studied the nondiscrimination policy in the spring and recommended it remain unchanged. Steven Aden, attorney for the Christian Legal Society, said the group is “delighted and thankful the university has decided to recognize the First Amendment rights of its religious organizations.” But Amanda Oberholtzer, co-president of the Outlaws, a law school group that promotes understanding of gay legal issues, said she expects a negative reaction among students to Hall’s decision. “They need to have one policy that applies to everyone. Or, don’t have a policy at all,” said Oberholtzer, a second-year law student. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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