Governor Bill Haslam on Wednesday vetoed a bill aimed at Vanderbilt University's "all comers" policy allowing any student to join a particular student group and run for office.
The bill bars state colleges and universities and private collegesand universities receiving more than $24 million in state funds from imposing anti-discrimination policies on religious student groups.
Governor Haslam, in his first veto, said he disagreed with the policy but did not feel that government should intervene in university affairs.
The Family Action of Tennessee group that had pushed for the bill said, "It is extremely disappointing that Governor Haslam would choose to veto Senate 3597 approved by almost two thirds of the members of the state House and Senate.
"It is also unfortunate that the Governor’s impending veto will not only defeat the protections given to student religious organizations on Vanderbilt University’s campus, but it will also defeat the protections given under the bill to such organizations at our public universities.
"We are grateful for the Governor’s previous willingness to work with legislative bill sponsors and even our organization on other bills. But we don’t understand why, in this instance, neither our organization nor the bill’s sponsors were given an opportunity to 'make their case' to the governor for the bill’s merits or to provide him with the information legislators had been privy to over the last several weeks.
"While our organization and its supporters share the Governor’s desire for limited government, the provisions of this bill relative to Vanderbilt simply tried to preserve for a defined, limited time a fundamental American value, religious liberty. It is ironic that our Governor would not protect religious liberty for even one year because Vanderbilt is a private business, given the on-going protection afforded religious liberty in connection with other private businesses under our civil rights laws.
"Hopefully, next year we will be able to work with the Governor and the fine legislators who championed this cause to re-enact those provisions of this bill that protected student religious organizations on the campuses of our public colleges."