Wisconsin University Giving Atheist Group Largest Sum in Funding

An atheist student group at a university in Wisconsin will likely be getting an estimated $67,000 from its funding board, making it the largest sum any atheist student group in the United States has ever received.

The group Atheists, Humanists, & Agnostics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is expected to receive the allocation request to help fund their meetings and other projects. Chris Calvey, executive director for AHA at Wisconsin, told The Christian Post that the funding would go to many endeavors, most notably "Faith Questioning" and "Secular Support Groups."

"'Faith Questioning' is a peer-to-peer religious advising service, designed to help students struggling with their faith, and to encourage all participants to develop their own religious identity," said Calvey.

"'Secular Support Groups' are discussion-based meetings for nonreligious, questioning, or any students interested in discussing topics relating to religion in a large group setting."

While many may take issue with the beliefs of AHA, campus resistance to their allocation request has been nearly nonexistent.

At UWM, student organization funding requests go through a panel of students known as the Student Services Finance Committee (SSFC). The SSFC approved the secular group's request without opposition.

Jake Heyka, president of Badger Catholic and an undergrad at UWM, told The Christian Post that while he disagrees with AHA's worldview he respects their right to the funding.

"In light of God granting us free will to act and believe as we choose, Badger Catholic respects the beliefs of AHA and their conscious decision to believe as they choose," said Heyka.

"My personal belief is that from a governance standpoint, one ideology has justification to be funded just as much as any other ideology should their service provided fit the criteria that [UWM student government] puts forth."

According to local media, Badger Catholic itself received about $116,000 for the current academic year from the university. In total, 16 organizations are dividing up $1.2 million in funds.

Regarding the current status of the allocation request, Calvey of AHA told CP that with the SSFC approving their request, it still had to go through a few other entities before being finalized.

"Our budget has been approved by the SSFC. Currently, it still needs to be approved by the Student Council, the Chancellor, and then the Board of Regents," said Calvey.

"However, it is highly unlikely that any of these groups will overturn a decision made by the SSFC."

While expected to go without incident, in the past the University of Wisconsin-Madison has experienced some controversy over its allocations or lack thereof.

According to the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, in 2007 Badger Catholic sued the university over rejecting $35,000 of their allocation request due to its being set aside for worship activities. The student organization won the case, with the university having to pay $500,000 in legal fees.

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