Mark Pody Takes Vanderbilt Police Bill (HB1150) Off Notice

Mark Pody Takes Vanderbilt Police Bill (HB1150) Off Notice

 (LEBANON, TN) – After much debate and input from constituents, State Representative Mark Pody (R- Lebanon) has taken HB­­1150 off notice in the House.  The intent of this legislation was to protect students against discrimination on the basis of religion.  Private institutions enjoy special privileges granted to them by the state.  Some receive millions of taxpayer dollars and they have been granted full police powers from the State of Tennessee. This would seem to make them state actors rather than merely private institutions.  With these state granted privileges should come a higher level of accountability and scrutiny. Based on the evidence, Rep Pody believes Vanderbilt University’s “all-comers policy” is a violation  of the Tennessee Constitution, Article 1 section 3 concerning religious freedom.

 Rep. Pody has been working diligently on this bill to ensure that it does not exceed the State’s authority.  He has consulted with many people, including Speaker Beth Harwell, who have pointed out potential issues with this legislation in its current form. This resulted in a consultation with the State’s Attorney General.

 The purpose of the bill was never to undermine Vanderbilt’s police force. The purpose was to ensure that institutions that discriminated against students and employees would not have special police powers.  The University would have a choice of ending its discrimination or see its police force’s authority returned to what most other private universities have been granted.  Nothing in this legislation was directed at the quality or professionalism of the Vanderbilt police force.

 Private Universities cannot operate without some oversight from the State Government.    Rep Mark Pody has plainly stated, “I want to be sure to stand up for our students’ religious rights without overstepping our state authority. At this point, I am still not satisfied with the “all-comers policy” at some private institutions.  However, it needs to be addressed in a different way. I am taking this bill off notice until a more appropriate solution can be found.”

 Students at the University should pursue multiple forms of redress.  A judicial option is certainly one of these.  The Legislature will continue to seek a resolution that will protect students from religious discrimination.  It should be treated just as diligently as racial and ethnic discrimination.