Christian Clubs

Academic intolerance is particularly acute in universities' discrimination against Christian groups on campus. In December 2002, Rutgers University booted from campus the Rutgers InterVarsity Multiethnic Christian Fellowship because the group required-of all outrageous things-that its leaders be Christians. The group became ineligible to receive university funds and was denied permission to meet or operate on school grounds. The university's rationale was that denying non-Christians access to leadership is unfairly discriminatory to nonbelievers and thus in violation of the university's guidelines on nondiscrimination. This non-thinking policy required student groups to be open to all students and to permit any active member to run for office. InterVarsity's charter limits leadership positions to those "committed to the basis of faith and the purpose of this organization."

The university's rationale of seeking to prevent discrimination was absurd on its face. What possible reason would a nonbeliever have for joining a Christian organization, much less becoming a leader in the group? This university's action was a transparent swipe at Christians, the lone disfavored, unprotected group in the academic universe. What the university was essentially saying was that Christian groups must abandon their theological character if they want to be officially recognized and avail themselves of the benefits of such recognition, including state funds and the use of university facilities. But permitting nonbelievers to occupy leadership positions would so dilute the club's purpose and character as to render it meaningless, a fact that couldn't have been lost on university officials. But their aversion to Christianity is presumably so intense that they weren't concerned that their actions constituted flagrant violations of the club's constitutional freedoms of association, religion, and speech. Rutgers lifted its ban against InterVarsity in April 2003, shortly after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) filed suit against it.

At Tufts, a similar assault on a Christian group took place, but this time at the hands of a student body. The Student Judiciary defrocked the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) because it wouldn't permit a bisexual member to have a leadership position in the group. When FIRE intervened, once again the university backed down.

The list of offending universities goes on, but the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been particularly discriminatory against Christian student groups. Like Rutgers, the university set its sights on the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, threatening to revoke its funding and strip it of recognition because it required its officers to affirm Christian doctrine. A school administrator informed InterVarsity that its charter was inconsistent with the university's policy for such clubs to grant "openness to full membership and participation without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, or gender." Again, FIRE came to the rescue and the administration backed down. FIRE's president Alan Charles Kors said, "UNC couldn't defend in public what it was willing to do in private Everybody on campus would immediately see the absurdity... if an evangelical Christian who believed homosexuality to be a sin tried to become president of a university's Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance. The administration would have led candlelight vigils on behalf of diversity and free association."

As it turned out, UNC-Chapel Hill had engaged in systematic discrimination against Christian groups across the board. Through a public records request, UNC-Wilmington's professor Mike Adams learned that the university had sent seventeen letters to various Christian groups threatening to cut off their financial support. Adams said, "Very clearly you can see that, in fact, they have not been focusing on secular fraternities It appears that these letters are targeted toward Christian groups, and essentially telling them the same thingnamely, that they can continue to be a group as long as they are willing to cease to be Christian."

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