The assault on conservative ideas has a new battleground: the high school campus. And now, even students at private religious institutions aren’t safe from ideological discrimination.
La Reina High School, a Catholic school for girls in Thousand Oaks, Calif., has denied student Isabella Foxen’s application to start a Young Americans for Freedom chapter. From the beginning of the application process, Isabella faced roadblocks.
Administrators arbitrarily demanded—not following any written policy—that Isabella acquire 35 student signatures before considering her application to start a club. Isabella found 86 students to sign on, but the school denied her application anyway.
La Reina’s excuse? Principal Shannon Gomez said the school’s administration “did not feel the club fostered a balance[d] political perspective,” and according to a local paper, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles (which oversees La Reina) “said no political student clubs are allowed—liberal or conservative—because federal law forbids nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations such as the archdiocese from political activity.”
Young Americans for Freedom is not political, and has had a historic presence at hundreds of Catholic colleges and high schools across the country. It is a project of Young America’s Foundation, and both were founded by Catholics (William F. Buckley and Ron Robinson). Never before has this excuse been used to a chapter or event on a Catholic campus.
And here’s why: The archdiocese and Young America’s Foundation share the exact same tax status.
Young Americans for Freedom is a branch of Young America’s Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization—just like the archdiocese. The foundation educates young people about the benefits of free enterprise, limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional values—and these ideas are not partisan.
The IRS says on its website that 501(c)3s “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities, and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.” Educating young people about conservative ideas is allowed, and that’s exactly what Young America’s Foundation does.
La Reina didn’t deny the club because of tax reasons. La Reina administrators rejected this student-driven application because of their ideological bias.
As evidence of their bias, La Reina’s administration had no problem granting club status to left-of-center groups such as the Green Team and the Human Rights Campaign—both of which discuss public policy.
And coincidentally, the same administrator who originally denied the club had no problem introducing a Green Party candidate last year at a required school event. The Green Party is political—even if it doesn’t get any votes—yet La Reina welcomed one of their candidates with open arms.
La Reina has no written policy on political or ideological balance, and La Reina and the archdiocese aren’t even on the same page on the issue. In a Ventura County Star article, Tod Tamberg, the spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said, “We’re not saying that politics has no place in the life of young people. We’re just saying there is a place for that activity, and it’s not on a school campus.”
But later the article reports that La Reina Principal Gomez “said the Young [Americans for Freedom] chapter would clearly have a conservative point of view, and there was no proposal for a liberal club to balance that.”
The archdiocese said public policy-related clubs are not allowed. Gomez said these clubs are acceptable if there’s balance. Which one is it?
It’s clear La Reina administrators are arbitrarily picking and choosing which side gets heard. And students are the ones who suffer.
Isabella and the 86 other students wanted a conservative club for a reason. Despite the lip service La Reina’s administrators pay to the idea of “balance,” conservative ideas are not being adequately represented in the classroom or in the school’s clubs.
Allowing Isabella to start her club would have shown that La Reina is open to intellectual diversity, but it seems Gomez and La Reina aren’t open to conservative perspectives.
La Reina’s unprecedented action to block conservatism on campus, if allowed to stand, will upend a long-standing record of free expression on Catholic campuses. There’s no excuse for blocking honest student activism, and La Reina should reconsider its decision immediately.