Bill Could Allow A&M Students to Opt Out of Fees for Religious Reasons

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Students at Texas A&M are considering a bill that would allow people to opt out of paying certain fees for religious reasons.

It’s called the "Religious Funding Exemption Bill", and it has created a divide among students on the Texas A&M campus

“I don't see why we should be forced to pay for something that we wouldn't take part in other wise,” said Prima Starr, student at Texas A&M.

“I think it’s really important that everyone pays their fair share for things they're comfortable with and things they're not comfortable with. It’s just like taxes,” said Texas A&M student Thomas Surratt.

The bill was originally written by a student who felt morally and religiously opposed to paying fees that go towards the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Resource Center on campus. The center provides reference material and an accepting environment to students who identify as GLBT.

The student who wrote the bill, Chris Woolsey, told the Texas A&M Battalion that he brought the bill to the Student Senate, because many students shared his concerns.

“I am morally opposed. I'm not saying you can't do what you want to do. But it my eyes, it’s what I feel is wrong,” said Starr.

The legislation was originally called the "GLBT Opt Out Bill", which is why students like Thomas Surratt tell us they've been against it from the start. Surratt says he was raised by two gay parents, so he's spent his life fighting for gay rights.

“It really bothers me when people use religion as an excuse to not do something that's just common decency,” said Surratt.

Student leaders say the bill was rewritten and renamed the “Religious Funding Exemption Bill" to protect student's religious rights without singling out the GLBT community

However, students, like Surratt, say an "opt out" bill is a slippery slope.

“It's not just the LGBT stuff they can affect. They can pretty much stop paying any student fees because they can find a reason to disagree with it.”

“Some may not support it and some may, but it should be a choice,” said Nani Afesse, a Texas A&M student.

Students will be able to address the Senate about the bill at an open forum Wednesday night.

Texas A&M officials say "any action the Student Senate takes is non-binding and advisory in nature."