Asked in Civil Rights for Michigan

Q: Can my university fine me $120 for not attending their chapel sessions?

I attend a private christian college (Cornerstone University) in Grand Rapids MI who has bi-weekly chapels (like a christian lecture/sermon thing). Normally 15 of these are required a semester but if you have a work conflict you can be excused. I do have a work conflict, but recently they added the option to watch recordings of the chapels after the fact. Due to this they announced that they are no longer excusing anyone from the requirement.

This year I got caught up with my full time job and forgot to watch the chapels, thus being fined $10 for each chapel I missed ($120 total). This felt wrong to me since I didn't have the opportunity to be excused and since last year they waived all fines due to technical difficulties on their end.

If it is listed in the code of conduct do they have the right to fine me for this? It seems like charging me for failure to attend a religious event would break some rules somewhere.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brent T. Geers
Brent T. Geers
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Your general sense would be right if you were attending a public school. You are attending a private, religious school. I would assume not paying the fines, and certainly continuing to not attend or watch chapel services, will eventually result in the school asking you to leave. The school has every right to making chapel attendance a condition of enrollment.

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