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Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.

496 U. S.

vide the club with an official platform to proselytize other students.

We disagree. In Widmar, we applied the three-part Lemon test to hold that an “equal access” policy, at the university level, does not violate the Establishment Clause. See 454 U. S., at 271–275 (applying Lemon, 403 U. S., at 612-613). We concluded that “an open-forum policy, including nondiscrimination against religious speech, would have a secular purpose,” 454 U. S., at 271 (footnotes omitted), and would in fact avoid entanglement with religion. See id., at 272, n. 11 (“[T]he University would risk greater ‘entanglement' by attempting to enforce its exclusion of ‘religious worship' and 'religious speech””). We also found that although incidental benefits accrued to religious groups who used university facilities, this result did not amount to an establishment of religion. First, we stated that a university's forum does not “confer any imprimatur of state approval on religious sects or practices.” Id., at 274. Indeed, the message is one of neutrality rather than endorsement; if a State refused to let religious groups use facilities open to others, then it would demonstrate not neutrality but hostility toward religion. “The Establishment Clause does not license government to treat religion and those who teach or practice it, simply by virtue of their status as such, as subversive of American ideals and therefore subject to unique disabilities.” McDaniel v. Paty, 435 U. S. 618, 641 (1978) (BRENNAN, J., concurring in judgment). Second, we noted that “[t]he [University's] provision of benefits to [a] broad ... spectrum of groups” — both nonreligious and religious speakers - was “an important index of secular effect.” 454 U. S., at 274.

We think the logic of Widmar applies with equal force to the Equal Access Act. As an initial matter, the Act's prohibition of discrimination on the basis of “political, philosophical, or other" speech as well as religious speech is a sufficient basis for meeting the secular purpose prong of the Lemon test. See Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U. S. 578, 586 (1987)

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(Court “is normally deferential to a [legislative] articulation of a secular purpose”); Mueller v. Allen, 463 U. S. 388, 394-395 (1983) (Court is "reluctan[t] to attribute unconstitutional motives to the States, particularly when a plausible secular purpose for the State's program may be discerned from the face of the statute”). Congress' avowed purposeto prevent discrimination against religious and other types of speech-is undeniably secular. See Corporation of Presiding Bishop of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. Amos, 483 U. S. 327, 335–336 (1987); Committee for Public Education & Religious Liberty v. Nyquist, 413 U. S. 756, 773 (1973). Cf. 42 U. S. C. $ 2000-2(a) (prohibiting employment discrimination on grounds of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin). Even if some legislators were motivated by a conviction that religious speech in particular was valuable and worthy of protection, that alone would not invalidate the Act, because what is relevant is the legislative purpose of the statute, not the possibly religious motives of the legislators who enacted the law. Because the Act on its face grants equal access to both secular and religious speech, we think it clear that the Act's purpose was not to “'endorse or disapprove of religion,'” Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U. S. 38, 56 (1985) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U. S. 668, 690 (1984) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring)).

Petitioners' principal contention is that the Act has the primary effect of advancing religion. Specifically, petitioners urge that, because the student religious meetings are held under school aegis, and because the State's compulsory attendance laws bring the students together (and thereby provide a ready-made audience for student evangelists), an objective observer in the position of a secondary school student will perceive official school support for such religious meetings. See County of Allegheny v. American Civil Liberties Union, Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, 492 U. S. 573, 593 (1989) (Establishment Clause inquiry is whether the government “'convey[s] or attempt[s] to convey a message that religion or

Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.

496 U. S.

a particular religious belief is favored or preferred?”) (quoting Wallace v. Jaffree, supra, at 70 (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment)).

We disagree. First, although we have invalidated the use of public funds to pay for teaching state-required subjects at parochial schools, in part because of the risk of creating “a crucial symbolic link between government and religion, thereby enlisting-at least in the eyes of impressionable youngsters —the powers of government to the support of the religious denomination operating the school,School Dist. of Grand Rapids v. Ball, 473 U. S. 373, 385 (1985), there is a crucial difference between government speech endorsing religion, which the Establishment Clause forbids, and private speech endorsing religion, which the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses protect. We think that secondary school students are mature enough and are likely to understand that a school does not endorse or support student speech that it merely permits on a nondiscriminatory basis. Cf. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., 393 U. S. 503 (1969) (no danger that high school students' symbolic speech implied school endorsement); West Virginia State Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, 319 U. S. 624 (1943) (same). See generally Note, 92 Yale. L. J. 499, 507–509 (1983) (summarizing research in adolescent psychology). The proposition that schools do not endorse everything they fail to censor is not complicated. “[P]articularly in this age of massive media information ... the few years difference in age between high school and college students [does not] justif[y] departing from Widmar.Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U. S. 534, 556 (1986) (Powell, J., dissenting).

Indeed, we note that Congress specifically rejected the argument that high school students are likely to confuse an equal access policy with state sponsorship of religion. See S. Rep. No. 98–357, p. 8 (1984); id., at 35 (“[S]tudents below the college level are capable of distinguishing between State-initiated, school sponsored, or teacher-led religious

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speech on the one hand and student-initiated, student-led religious speech on the other”). Given the deference due “the duly enacted and carefully considered decision of a coequal and representative branch of our Government,” Walters v. National Assn. of Radiation Survivors, 473 U. S. 305, 319 (1985); see also Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U. S. 57, 64 (1981), we do not lightly second-guess such legislative judgments, particularly where the judgments are based in part on empirical determinations.

Second, we note that the Act expressly limits participation by school officials at meetings of student religious groups, $$ 4071(c)(2) and (3), and that any such meetings must be held during "noninstructional time,” $ 4071(b). The Act therefore avoids the problems of "the students' emulation of teachers as role models” and “mandatory attendance requirements," Edwards v. Aguillard, 482 U. S., at 584; see also Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Ed. of School Dist. No. 71, Champaign County, 333 U. S. 203, 209–210 (1948) (release time program invalid where students were “released in part from their legal duty [to attend school] upon the condition that they attend the religious classes”). To be sure, the possibility of student peer pressure remains, but there is little if any risk of official state endorsement or coercion where no formal classroom activities are involved and no school officials actively participate. Moreover, petitioners' fear of a mistaken inference of endorsement is largely self-imposed, because the school itself has control over any impressions it gives its students. To the extent a school makes clear that its recognition of respondents' proposed club is not an endorsement of the views of the club's participants, see Widmar, 454 U. S., at 274, n. 14 (noting that university student handbook states that the university's name will not be identified with the aims, policies, or opinions of any student organization or its members), students will reasonably understand that the school's official recognition of the club evinces neutrality toward, rather than endorsement of, religious speech.

Opinion of O'CONNOR, J.

496 U. S.

Third, the broad spectrum of officially recognized student clubs at Westside, and the fact that Westside students are free to initiate and organize additional student clubs, see App. 221–222, counteract any possible message of official endorsement of or preference for religion or a particular religious belief. See Widmar, 454 U. S., at 274 (“The provision of benefits to so broad a spectrum of groups is an important index of secular effect”). Although a school may not itself lead or direct a religious club, a school that permits a studentinitiated and student-led religious club to meet after school, just as it permits any other student group to do, does not convey a message of state approval or endorsement of the particular religion. Under the Act, a school with a limited open forum may not lawfully deny access to a Jewish students' club, a Young Democrats club, or a philosophy club devoted to the study of Nietzsche. To the extent that a religious club is merely one of many different student-initiated voluntary clubs, students should perceive no message of government endorsement of religion. Thus, we conclude that the Act does not, at least on its face and as applied to Westside, have the primary effect of advancing religion. See id., at 275 (“At least in the absence of empirical evidence that religious groups will dominate [the university's] open forum, ... the advancement of religion would not be the forum’s ‘primary effect?”).

Petitioners' final argument is that by complying with the Act's requirements, the school risks excessive entanglement between government and religion. The proposed club, petitioners urge, would be required to have a faculty sponsor who would be charged with actively directing the activities of the group, guiding its leaders, and ensuring balance in the presentation of controversial ideas. Petitioners claim that this influence over the club's religious program would entangle the government in day-to-day surveillance of religion of the type forbidden by the Establishment Clause.

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