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Student Government: Atheist Student Alliance funding disputed

A bill for funding for the Atheist Student Alliance was passed after heavy debate during Tuesday’s SG Senate meeting, after senators said the group was immoral and had requested too much money.

Bill 48-055 requested $1171.30 for the club and was sponsored by Sen. Dan Shelnutt of the Interim Funding and Transfers Committee. Of that money, $775 was requested for food for meet-and-greets, Bull Market booths, meetings and guest lectures.

Sen. Charles Sherrard, who is majoring in political science, voted against the bill.

“I disapprove. These kinds of organizations are dangerous for our society,” Sherrard said.

Ralph Reid, the Rules, Judicial and Legislative Affairs Committee chair, disagreed with the bill because he felt the amounts given to different clubs were unfair.

“I don’t think we are funding them equally,” Reid said.

Other senators who supported the bill thought the club had a right to support its beliefs, and that money from student activities fees was rightly used for student clubs, regardless of their popularity.

“Though I may not agree with what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it,” said Sen. Ryan Iacovacci, paraphrasing Voltaire.

“Tension is necessary, tension is what breeds creativity,” Iacovacci said. “If there is one side of the coin, then you get control. If there is tension, it breeds democracy.”

Senate President Pro Tempore Nicole Randazzo also supported the bill.

“This is the students’ money, so give it back to the students.”

Sen. Keenan Arodak said SG should approve the funding request because disapproving it because of the group’s beliefs is illegal.

“We as Student Government members cannot vote this down just because it is the Atheist (Student) Alliance and (because) we disagree with its philosophy,” he said. “This is not only a state and local law, but it also has been ratified by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Added Sen. Benjamin Brown: “Regardless whether you believe in their views, I still think it’s good to have a diversity of opinions.”

Though the bill was debated vehemently in the Senate, it eventually passed with overwhelming support, taking in a 13-4-2 vote.

Other clubs whose funding requests were approved Tuesday included:

    -USF Photo Club, $1,060.00    -Geography Club at USF, $502.97    -Voices for Planned Parenthood at USF, $614.80    -Obstetrics Interest Group, $999.58    -Orthopedic Interest Group, $147.87

Additional reporting by Amy Mariani.