Sigma Alpha Omega (SAO) is a national faith-based sorority with active chapters at 36 universities. SAO encourages its members to grow closer to Christ through Bible studies, social activities, retreats, and service projects with the mission to glorify God by reaching women across the world through the expansion of the sisterhood, by encouraging spiritual development through Christ‐inspired accountability and unity, by participating in evangelistic and philanthropic endeavors, and focusing on good scholarship and humble leadership.
The Pi chapter of Sigma Alpha Omega has been a recognized student organization at the University of West Georgia since 2014. It was recognized as a Distinguished Chapter in 2017 and 2018. Pursuant to university policy, the chapter re-registered as a recognized student organization over the summer of 2019, and the chapter was approved to participate in the University Organization Fair that was to take place on Tuesday, August 26. Just two weeks before the fair, however, the chapter was told that it would not be allowed to register. Subsequently, the chapter’s approval to participate in the organization fair was withdrawn.
Students in the affairs office indicated that the revocation was a result of the chapter not including the university nondiscrimination policy, which the chapter could not sign. With less than a week before the student organization fair, a major recruiting event at the university, SAO reached out to Christian Legal Society.
Christian Legal Society worked with SAO leadership to help craft a response to the university. In the response, SAO and CLS noted that the law not only allows, but requires, numerous religious and sex-based exceptions to nondiscrimination laws, and that many were applicable to the SAO Pi Chapter. During a phone call between SAO, CLS, and the university, the university provided recognition to the Pi chapter effective immediately, and the chapter was able to participate in the student organization fair.
Importance: Religious organizations, whose members come together because of their shared beliefs, are entitled to exceptions to broad nondiscrimination policies that do not accommodate or protect their religious identities.