NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has vetoed a measure that tried to force Vanderbilt University to exempt student religious groups from its nondiscrimination policy.
The university's so-called "all-comers" policy requires student groups at the school to allow any interested students to join and run for office. Some religious groups have waged a high-profile battle to overturn it.
"I don't agree with Vanderbilt's policy, I think it's wrong. But I just also don't think the state, in this case, should tell a private institution what it should do," Gov. Haslam explained Wednesday night.
This is the governor's first veto since he took office in 2011.
The chaplain for Vanderbilt's Catholic student organization spoke to NewsChannel 5 about the governor's decision.
"He's sort of being tolerant of their (Vanderbilt's) opinion, even though he doesn't agree with it. I just wish the University would be as tolerant of religious groups, as the governor is being tolerant of the university," said Father John Sims Baker.
Below is a statement from Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos in reaction Haslam's veto:
"While we respect the governor's position on Vanderbilt's policy, we are gratified by his rejection of government intrusion into private institutions and their ability to govern and set policies themselves."
Vanderbilt's new policy led the Catholic student group to end its affiliation with the University.
"We just couldn't say we're not going to do that, it really wouldn't be true. So we thought we had to be completely straight forward with the university and say, the way this is formulated, we just can't sign it," Father Baker said.
The affiliation of more than a dozen other religious-affiliated groups at Vanderbilt is still in limbo for the fall semester.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)