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Newsletter > January 2006 > "MUSLIM SORORITY"
Tim Burke, Manley Burke, firstname.lastname@example.org
National Public Radio recently reported on the efforts to develop the first Muslim Sorority. According to the December 13, 2005 newscast, Gamma Gamma Pi has groups of Muslim students organizing at both the University of Kentucky and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, each of which is vying for the honor of establishing the nation’s first Muslim sorority chapter.
In recent years, local and occasionally national fraternal organizations concentrating on gay, Asian or Hispanic members have also come into existence. Fraternal organizations dedicated to a particularly cultural, national or religious background are not a new phenomenon. Alpha Gamma Delta was founded in 1924 based on the traditions and missionary zeal of Ignatius Loyola, a Jesuit Catholic Priest. In 1913, Alpha Epsilon Pi was launched on the Washington Square campus of New York University by Jewish founders, and while open to members of all faiths willing to embrace the Fraternity’s cultural traditions, Alpha Epsilon Pi continues to pride itself on being the Jewish fraternity. Alpha Tau Omega began in 1865 with the intent of “fostering a Christian brotherhood dedicated to the task of achieving and cherishing permanent peace” following the Civil War. Theta Phi Alpha launched in 1912 at the University of Michigan as a sorority for Catholic women. Alpha Phi Alpha’s celebration of its centennial in 2000 marks a century of National Pan-Hellenic Council historically black fraternal organizations.
A Muslim sorority is well in keeping with the long tradition of college fraternal associations organized by individuals who share similar personal interests, cultural and even religious traditions.
Fraternal organizations built around such common bonds strengthen their entitlement to First Amendment Freedom of Association protections. Courts have long recognized that there are two types of associations entitled to First Amendment Freedom of Association protection — intimate associations and expressive associations.
The characteristics of intimate associations are that they are relatively small; maintain a high degree of selectivity in decisions to begin and maintain the relationship; and others are secluded from critical aspects of that relationship. Fraternities and sororities which select their members based in part on the prospective member’s commitment to the common purpose of the association — moral, cultural or religious — are demonstrating one of the key characteristics of intimate association.
To qualify as an expressive association, an organization must be able to demonstrate that they are more than merely a “social organization.” Fraternities and sororities that can demonstrate activities and programming, internal or external to the group, based on or furthering cultural, religious or charitable beliefs or even political advocacy on public issues, demonstrate a critical characteristic of expressive associations.