Russell said the Finance Committee was hesitant to fund the workshops too soon because if they did end up being religious exercises, the approval could set a dangerous precedent.
After the club clarified some details, Congress voted to give it $428 because members thought that the group's plans were to educate. "It was something that was completely appropriate," Larson said. "As long as it's enhancing the cultural and intellectual climate on campus, that's something we should be paying for."
Although it was Russell's committee that was originally skeptical of the club's plans, she said she saw both sides of the issue. "I didn't feel giving money to workshops was against Student Code," she said. "After (Bahai) amended it, it was better."
Bahai Secretary Chelsea Lee said the club is content with the money it received. "I think that since the Bahai club has never asked for money before, we did pretty well with what we got," she said.
Of about 40 religious groups on campus, Larson said nine have received Student Congress funding this year.
Campus Crusade for Christ, a Christian group, received $1,000 in funding this year to fund speakers, but Larson said Congress doesn't know who those speakers will be before they are funded.
"We just trust that the small portion of funding that comes from us is going to pay for speakers that aren't preachers but rather bring cultural intelligence and awareness to campus," Larson said.
Richter, who voted against funding the Bahais of UNC, said that at any time, Congress can subpoena a group to check up on what the money is being used for.
Hillel, a Jewish organization, also receives money for activities. But Larson said Congress denied funding for a statewide seder -- a ritual meal celebrating the Passover holiday -- Hillel wanted to participate in because it would have been considered a worship service.
Larson said Congress did fund a Holocaust Awareness Week because it promoted religious education and awareness instead of being a religious exercise.
Richter said she's glad there's a gray area in rules on funding religious groups. "It shouldn't be black and white -- it should be left open to interpretation."
Lee had reservations about this subjective decision resting with Congress but sees no other way to do it. "It does put a lot of power in (Congress') hands to define what a religious exercise is, but I can't see any better way to fix it."
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