St. Thomas announced in a September media statement that it will not take a position on the marriage amendment. (Katie Broadwell/TommieMedia)
While several Minnesota institutions of higher education like Augsburg College and Macalester College have taken a stance on the marriage amendment, St. Thomas has announced that it will not.
The amendment question on the November ballot reads: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?”
Augsburg, Macalester, and Capella University (Minneapolis) have made announcements that their universities oppose the amendment. In another case, Hamline University’s faculty came out in opposition to the amendment while the institution announced it will stay neutral.
Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations, said St. Thomas limits its lobbying to higher education issues.
A university statement reads, “With respect to other public policy, St. Thomas carries out its mission by initiating and supporting educational activities that promote and facilitate dialogue and civil discourse in the quest for truth, rather than by taking a position on an issue itself.”
The statement goes on to say St. Thomas could lose its tax-exempt status if it were to take a political stance, and the university is “prohibited by the IRS from participating or intervening in activities on behalf, or in opposition to, a candidate from public office and is subject to restrictions on lobbying and issues advocacy.”
Hennes said the best way for St. Thomas to carry out its mission is to be a forum for “discussion, debate and dialogue.”
“It isn’t necessary that we take a public position on something,” Hennes said.
Sophomore Alexander Zahir said he agrees that universities should not take positions on political issues or candidates.
“Its role should be to foster learning, but not presume it knows the correct answer,” Zahir said.
Freshman Glynnis Forsberg said she thinks St. Thomas has a right to promote what the Catholic Church teaches, but said it is not what everyone will think.
“What I do hope, is that people outside of any of the universities remember that it isn’t the whole student body that agrees with it,” Forsberg said.
Sophomore Cassidy Ramirez said he thinks that any institution receiving government funding should not take a stance on the argument.
“Instead (they should) examine issues such as the marriage amendment and intellectually discuss different arguments regarding the issue,” Ramirez said.
While sophomore Holly Wang said she understands why the Catholic Church took a stance, she does not think it would be a “smart political move” for the university to do so.
“It will affect the diversity of its prospective students,” Wang said. “It can come off to many people as close-minded and exclusive.”
Caroline Rode can be reached at email@example.com.