JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the court.
This case presents the question whether a state university, which makes its facilities generally available for the activities
It is the stated policy of the University of Missouri at Kansas City
From 1973 until 1977 a registered religious group named Cornerstone regularly sought and received permission to conduct its meetings in University facilities.
Upon cross-motions for summary judgment, the District Court upheld the challenged regulation. Chess v. Widmar, 480 F.Supp. 907 (1979). It found the regulation not only justified, but required, by the Establishment Clause of the Federal Constitution. Id., at 916. Under Tilton v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 672 (1971), the court reasoned, the State
The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed. Chess v. Widmar, 635 F.2d 1310 (1980). Rejecting the analysis of the District Court, it viewed the University regulation as a content-based discrimination against religious speech, for which it could find no compelling justification. Id., at 1315-1320. The court held that the Establishment Clause does not bar a policy of equal access, in which facilities are open to groups and speakers of all kinds. Id., at 1317. According to the Court of Appeals, the "primary effect" of such a policy would not be to advance religion, but rather to further the neutral purpose of developing students' " `social and cultural awareness as well as [their] intellectual curiosity.' " Ibid. (quoting from the University bulletin's description of the student activities program, reprinted in id., at 1312, n. 1).
We granted certiorari. 450 U.S. 909. We now affirm.
Through its policy of accommodating their meetings, the University has created a forum generally open for use by student groups. Having done so, the University has assumed an obligation to justify its discriminations and exclusions under applicable constitutional norms.
The University's institutional mission, which it describes as providing a "secular education" to its students, Brief for Petitioners 44, does not exempt its actions from constitutional scrutiny. With respect to persons entitled to be there, our cases leave no doubt that the First Amendment
Here UMKC has discriminated against student groups and speakers based on their desire to use a generally open forum to engage in religious worship and discussion. These are forms of speech and association protected by the First Amendment. See, e. g., Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., 452 U.S. 640 (1981); Niemotko v. Maryland, 340 U.S. 268 (1951); Saia v. New York, 334 U.S. 558 (1948).
In this case the University claims a compelling interest in maintaining strict separation of church and State. It derives this interest from the "Establishment Clauses" of both the Federal and Missouri Constitutions.
The University first argues that it cannot offer its facilities to religious groups and speakers on the terms available to
In this case two prongs of the test are clearly met. Both the District Court and the Court of Appeals held that an open-forum policy, including nondiscrimination against religious speech,
We are not oblivious to the range of an open forum's likely effects. It is possible — perhaps even foreseeable — that religious groups will benefit from access to University facilities. But this Court has explained that a religious organization's enjoyment of merely "incidental" benefits does not violate the prohibition against the "primary advancement" of religion. Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756,
We are satisfied that any religious benefits of an open forum at UMKC would be "incidental" within the meaning of our cases. Two factors are especially relevant.
First, an open forum in a public university does not confer any imprimatur of state approval on religious sects or practices. As the Court of Appeals quite aptly stated, such a policy "would no more commit the University . . . to religious goals" than it is "now committed to the goals of the Students for a Democratic Society, the Young Socialist Alliance," or any other group eligible to use its facilities. 635 F. 2d, at 1317.
Second, the forum is available to a broad class of nonreligious as well as religious speakers; there are over 100 recognized student groups at UMKC. The provision of benefits to so broad a spectrum of groups is an important index of secular effect. See, e. g., Wolman v. Walter, 433 U.S. 229, 240-241 (1977); Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, supra, at 781-782, and n. 38. If the Establishment Clause barred the extension of general benefits to religious groups, "a church could not be protected by the police and fire departments.
Arguing that the State of Missouri has gone further than the Federal Constitution in proscribing indirect state support for religion,
The Missouri courts have not ruled whether a general policy of accommodating student groups, applied equally to those wishing to gather to engage in religious and nonreligious speech, would offend the State Constitution. We need not, however, determine how the Missouri courts would decide this issue. It is also unnecessary for us to decide whether, under the Supremacy Clause,
On one hand, respondents' First Amendment rights are entitled to special constitutional solicitude. Our cases have required the most exacting scrutiny in cases in which a State undertakes to regulate speech on the basis of its content. See, e. g., Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S. 455 (1980); Police Dept. of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92 (1972). On the other hand, the state interest asserted here — in achieving greater separation of church and State than is already ensured under the Establishment Clause of the Federal Constitution — is limited by the Free Exercise Clause and in this case by the Free Speech Clause as well. In this constitutional context, we are unable to recognize the State's interest as sufficiently "compelling" to justify content-based discrimination against respondents' religious speech.
Our holding in this case in no way undermines the capacity of the University to establish reasonable time, place, and manner regulations.
The basis for our decision is narrow. Having created a forum generally open to student groups, the University seeks to enforce a content-based exclusion of religious speech. Its exclusionary policy violates the fundamental principle that a state regulations of speech should be content-neutral, and the University is unable to justify this violation under applicable constitutional standards.
For this reason, the decision of the Court of Appeals is
JUSTICE STEVENS, concurring in the judgment.
As the Court recognizes, every university must "make academic judgments as to how best to allocate scarce resources," ante, at 276. The Court appears to hold, however, that those judgments must "serve a compelling state interest" wherever they are based, even in part, on the content of speech. Ante, at 269-270. This conclusion apparently flows from the Court's suggestion that a student activities program — from which the public may be excluded, ante, at 267-268, n. 5 — must be managed as though it were a "public forum."
Today most major colleges and universities are operated by public authority. Nevertheless, their facilities are not open to the public in the same way that streets and parks are. University facilities — private or public — are maintained primarily for the benefit of the student body and the faculty. In performing their learning and teaching missions, the managers of a university routinely make countless decisions based on the content of communicative materials. They select books for inclusion in the library, they hire professors on the basis of their academic philosophies, they select courses for inclusion in the curriculum, and they reward scholars for what they have written. In addition, in encouraging students to participate in extracurricular activities, they necessarily make decisions concerning the content of those activities.
Because every university's resources are limited, an educational institution must routinely make decisions concerning the use of the time and space that is available for extracurricular activities. In my judgment, it is both necessary and appropriate for those decisions to evaluate the content of a proposed student activity. I should think it obvious, for example, that if two groups of 25 students requested the use of a room at a particular time — one to view Mickey Mouse cartoons and the other to rehearse an amateur performance of Hamlet — the First Amendment would not require that the room he reserved for the group that submitted its application first. Nor do I see why a university should have to establish a "compelling state interest" to defend its decision to permit one group to use the facility and not the other. In my opinion, a university should be allowed to decide for itself whether a program that illuminates the genius of Walt Disney should be given precedence over one that may duplicate material adequately covered in the classroom. Judgments of
In this case I agree with the Court that the University has not established a sufficient justification for its refusal to allow the Cornerstone group to engage in religious worship on the campus. The primary reason advanced for the discriminatory treatment is the University's fear of violating the Establishment Clause. But since the record discloses no danger
Nor does the University's reliance on the Establishment Clause of the Missouri State Constitution provide a sufficient justification for the discriminatory treatment in this case.
Accordingly, although I do not endorse the Court's reasoning, I concur in its judgment.
In affirming the decision of the Court of Appeals, the majority rejects petitioners' argument that the Establishment Clause of the Constitution prohibits the use of university buildings for religious purposes. A state university may permit its property to be used for purely religious services without violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments. With this I agree. See Committee for Public Education v. Nyquist, 413 U.S. 756, 813 (1973) (WHITE, J., dissenting); Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 661 (1971) (opinion of WHITE, J.). The Establishment Clause, however, sets limits only on what the State may do with respect to religious organizations; it does not establish what the State is required to do. I have long argued that Establishment Clause limits on state action which incidentally aids religion are not as strict as the Court has held. The step from the permissible to the necessary, however, is a long one. In my view, just as there is room under the Religion Clauses for state policies that may have some beneficial effect on religion, there is also room for state policies that may incidentally burden religion. In other words, I believe the State to be a good deal freer to formulate policies that affect religion in divergent ways than does the majority. See Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398, 422-423 (1963) (Harlan, J., dissenting). The majority's position will inevitably lead to those contradictions and tensions between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses warned against by Justice Stewart in Sherbert v. Verner, supra, at 416.
The University regulation at issue here provides in pertinent part:
Although there may be instances in which it would be difficult to determine whether a religious group used university facilities for "worship" or "religious teaching," rather than for secular ends, this is not such a case. The regulation was applied to respondents' religious group, Cornerstone, only after the group explicitly informed the University that it sought access to the facilities for the purpose of offering prayer, singing hymns, reading scripture, and teaching biblical principles. Cornerstone described their meetings as follows: "Although these meetings would not appear to a casual observer to correspond precisely to a traditional worship service, there is no doubt that worship is an important part of the general atmosphere." Chess v. Widmar, 480 F.Supp. 907, 910 (1979).
A large part of respondents' argument, accepted by the court below and accepted by the majority, is founded on the proposition that because religious worship uses speech, it is protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.
Although the majority describes this argument as "novel," ante, at 269, n. 6, I believe it to be clearly supported by our previous cases. Just last Term, the Court found it sufficiently
If the majority were right that no distinction may be drawn between verbal acts of worship and other verbal acts, all of these cases would have to be reconsidered. Although I agree that the line may be difficult to draw in many cases, surely the majority cannot seriously suggest that no line may ever be drawn.
There may be instances in which a State's attempt to disentangle itself from religious worship would intrude upon secular speech about religion. In such a case, the State's action would be subject to challenge under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. This is not such a case. This case involves religious worship only; the fact that that worship is accomplished through speech does not add anything to respondents' argument. That argument must rely upon the claim that the State's action impermissibly interferes with the free exercise of respondents' religious practices. Although this is a close question, I conclude that it does not.
Plausible analogies on either side suggest themselves. Respondents argue, and the majority agrees, that by permitting any student group to use its facilities for communicative purposes other than religious worship, the University has created a "public forum." Ante, at 267-268. With ample
Petitioners, on the other hand, argue that allowing use of their facilities for religious worship is constitutionally indistinguishable from directly subsidizing such religious services: It would "fun[d] a specifically religious activity in an otherwise substantially secular setting." Hunt v. McNair, 413 U.S. 734, 743 (1973). They argue that the fact that secular student groups are entitled to the in-kind subsidy at issue here does not establish that a religious group is entitled to the same subsidy. They could convincingly argue, for example, that a state university that pays for basketballs for the basketball team is not thereby required to pay for Bibles for a group like Cornerstone.
Each of these analogies is persuasive. Because they lead to different results, however, they are of limited help in reaching a decision here. They also demonstrate the difficulty in reconciling the various interests expressed in the Religion Clauses. In my view, therefore, resolution of this case is best achieved by returning to first principles. This requires an assessment of the burden on respondents' ability freely to exercise their religious beliefs and practices and of the State's interest in enforcing its regulation.
Respondents complain that compliance with the regulation would require them to meet "about a block and a half" from campus under conditions less comfortable than those previously available on campus.
On these facts, therefore, I cannot find that the application of the regulation to prevent Cornerstone from holding religious worship services in University facilities violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. I would not hold as the majority does that if a university permits students and others to use its property for secular purposes, it must also furnish facilities to religious groups for the purposes of worship and the practice of their religion. Accordingly, I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
"4.0314.0107 No University buildings or grounds (except chapels as herein provided) may be used for purposes of religious worship or religious teaching by either student or nonstudent groups. . . . The general prohibition against use of University buildings and grounds for religious worship or religious teaching is a policy required, in the opinion of The Board of Curators, by the Constitution and laws of the State and is not open to any other construction. No regulations shall be interpreted to forbid the offering of prayer or other appropriate recognition of religion at public functions held in University facilities. . . .
"4.0314.0108 Regular chapels established on University grounds may be used for religious services but not for regular recurring services of any groups. Special rules and procedures shall be established for each such chapel by the Chancellor. It is specifically directed that no advantage shall be given to any religious group."
There is no chapel on the campus of UMKC. The nearest University chapel is at the Columbia campus, approximately 125 miles east of UMKC.
Although the University had routinely approved Cornerstone meetings before 1977, the District Court found that University officials had never "authorized a student organization to utilize a University facility for a meeting where they had full knowledge that the purposes of the meeting include[d] religious worship or religious teaching." Chess v. Widmar, supra, at 910.
At the same time, however, our cases have recognized that First Amendment rights must be analyzed "in light of the special characteristics of the school environment." Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District, 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969). We continue to adhere to that view. A university differs in significant respects for public forums such as streets or parks or even municipal theaters. A university's mission is education, and decisions of this Court have never denied a university's authority to impose reasonable regulations compatible with that mission upon the use of its campus and facilities. We have not held, for example, that a campus must make all of its facilities equally available to students and nonstudents alike, or that a university must grant free access to all of its grounds or buildings.
First, the dissent fails to establish that the distinction has intelligible content. There is no indication when "singing hymns, reading scripture, and teaching biblical principles," post, at 283, cease to be "singing, teaching, and reading" — all apparently forms of "speech," despite their religious subject matter — and become unprotected "worship."
Second, even if the distinction drew an arguably principled line, it is highly doubtful that it would lie within the judicial competence to administer. Cf. Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67, 70 (1953). Merely to draw the distinction would require the university — and ultimately the courts — to inquire into the significance of words and practices to different religious faiths, and in varying circumstances by the same faith. Such inquiries would tend inevitably to entangle the State with religion in a manner forbidden by our cases. E. g., Walz v. Tax Comm'n, 397 U.S. 664, 668 (1970).
Finally, the dissent fails to establish the relevance of the distinction on which it seeks to rely. The dissent apparently wishes to preserve the vitality of the Establishment Clause. See post, at 284-285. But it gives no reason why the Establishment Clause, or any other provision of the Constitution, would require different treatment for religious speech designed to win religious converts, see Heffron, supra, than for religious worship by persons already converted. It is far from clear that the State gives greater support in the latter case than in the former.
"It is to be remembered that the effect of the College's denial of recognition was a form of prior restraint, denying to petitioners' organization the range of associational activities described above. While a college has a legititify interest in preventing disruption on the campus, which . . . may justify such restraint, a `heavy burden' rests on the college to demonstrate the appropriateness of that action."
Because this case involves a forum already made generally available to student groups, it differs from those cases in which this Court has invalidated statutes permitting school facilities to be used for instruction by religious groups, but not by others. See, e. g., McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948). In those cases the school may appear to sponsor the views of the speaker.
We do not believe that Tilton can be read so broadly. In Tilton the Court was concerned that a sectarian institution might convert federally funded buildings to religious uses or otherwise stamp them with the imprimatur of religion. But nothing in Tilton suggested a limitation on the State's capacity to maintain forums equally open to religious and other discussion. Cases before and after Tilton have acknowledged the right of religious speakers to use public forums on equal terms with others. See, e. g., Heffron v. International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., 452 U.S. 640 (1981); Saia v. New York, 334 U.S. 558 (1948).
" `It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail "the four essential freedoms" of a university — to determine for itself of academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.' " Id., at 263.
Although these comments were not directed at a public university's concern with extracurricular activities, it is clear that the "atmosphere" of a university includes such a critical aspect of campus life. See also University of California Regents v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265, 312 (opinion of POWELL, J.) ("Academic freedom, though not a specifically enumerated constitutional right, long has been viewed as a special concern of the First Amendment"); Note, Academic Freedom and Federal Regulation of University Hiring, 92 Harv. L. Rev. 879 (1879). Cf. Van Alstyne, The Specific Theory of Academic Freedom and the General Issue of Civil Liberty, reprinted in The Concept of Academic Freedom 59, 77-81 (E. Pincoffs ed. 1972).
"what seems to be a continuing tendency in this Court to use as tests such easy phrases as `compelling [state] interest' and `least drastic [or restrictive] means.' I have never been able fully to appreciate just what a `compelling state interest' is. If it means `convincingly controlling,' or `incapable of being overcome' upon any balancing process, then, of course, the test merely announces an inevitable result, and the test is no test at all. And, for me, `least drastic means' is a slippery slope and also the signal of the result the Court has chosen to reach. A judge would be unimaginative indeed if he could not come up with something a little less `drastic' or a little less `restrictive' in almost any situation, and thereby enable himself to vote to strike legislation down." Id., at 188-189 (concurring opinion) (citation omitted).
"The opinions below also assumed that petitioner had the burden of showing entitlement to recognition by the College. While petitioners have not challenged the procedural requirement that they file an application in conformity with the rules of the College, they do question the view of the courts below that final rejection could rest on their failure to convince the administration that their organization was unaffiliated with the National [Students for a Democratic Society]. For reasons to be stated later in this opinion, we do not consider the issue of affiliation to be a controlling one. But, apart from any particular issue, once petitioners had failed an application in conformity with the requirements, the burden was upon the College administration to justify its decision of rejection. It is to be remembered that the effect of the College's denial of recognition was a form of prior restraint, denying to petitioners' organization the range of associational activities described above. While a college has a legitimate interest in preventing disrupting on the campus, which under circumstances requiring the safeguarding of that interest may justify such restraint, a `heavy burden' rests on the college to demonstrate the appropriateness of that action." 408 U. S., at 183-184 (footnotes and citations omitted).