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Christian Groups Under Assault on American Campuses

Christianity is under unprecedented assault on college campuses throughout the country. While universities would have you believe they are beacons of diversity and tolerance, when it comes to anything “Christian,” there seems to be a double standard. For example, over the last several years, fifteen InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapters have been forced off college campuses because their chapters failed to meet non-discrimination policies. In 2010, four Christian student-run groups at Vanderbilt University were placed on provisional status, including the Christian Legal Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, after requiring their members to adhere to the religious tenets of the group. The school began reviewing the policies of all 380 registered student groups after a gay student filed a complaint against a Christian fraternity when asked to leave due to his openly gay status. Vanderbilt adopted a politically correct method to deal with the problem by forcing Christian groups to follow the university’s non-discrimination policies if they wished to receive funding, even if those policies conflicted with the beliefs of the group.

Last year, an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter was suspended at SUNY Buffalo in New York. In this instance, the group’s president claimed that there was mutual agreement that their openly gay treasurer should resign because he refused to accept scriptures that condemn homosexuality. A gay and lesbian group then filed a complaint with the university’s student government association claiming discrimination against a gay student. The InterVarsity chapter insisted that while they do not prevent anyone from becoming a member, those in leadership must comply with the tenets of the group. The student association voted to suspend the InterVarsity chapter and appointed a committee to investigate whether or not they were in violation of university policies.

Similar situations have occurred on other campuses like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Rutgers University, Marquette University, and the list goes on. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has witnessed several instances of discrimination targeting Christians over the years. In the early 2000’s, the administration told InterVarsity that their charter violated university non-discriminatory policies because it required officers to hold certain beliefs and comply with the organization’s policies. The group argued that it did not want to discriminate, but felt there must be standards if they are to maintain their religious identity. Ultimately the school decided in favor of the group citing freedom of expression as the reason for continuing its official status. More recently, the university chose to investigate a Christian singing group, known as Psalm 100, after they expelled one of their gay members. Following the expulsion, the school launched an investigation to determine whether or not the group violated the school’s anti-discrimination policies. Following the investigation, the university could not show evidence that the student had been dismissed due to his homosexuality and concluded that the group had not violated its non-discrimination policies.

Likewise, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro suspended a pro-abstinence, anti-abortion Christian group, known as Make Up Your Own Mind, after it restricted membership to only those students who shared its beliefs. The group required its members to adhere to a Christian statement of faith due to their association with a local crisis pregnancy center. The university told them that they did not qualify as a religious organization because they were not associated with a church, and therefore could not restrict their membership. The school recently decided in favor of this group, restoring their officially recognized status and right to selective membership.

In the early 2000s, Rutgers University banned InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship altogether, denying them university funding or the use of school facilities because the chapter required leaders to share the group’s religious beliefs. The group filed a suit against the university, but later dropped it after they reached an agreement regarding leadership requirements. Marquette University, a Jesuit school, punished an InterVarsity chapter after it dismissed an openly gay officer, thereby failing to meet the university’s Statement on Human Dignity, which states that all individuals must be respected regardless of their “age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class.” The chapter was suspended, placed on a one-year probation, investigated, and forced to have its constitution reviewed. The suspension was later overturned.

San Diego State University is now facing a similar situation. A Christian fraternity and sorority were harassed for limiting membership to those that share their religious beliefs. Members were required to adhere to the religious tenets of the group, including their stance against pre-marital sex and the advocacy of marriage between a man and woman only. For not abiding by the university’s non-discrimination policies, the fraternity and sorority were stripped of funding and not allowed to post signs on campus, meet on campus, use the school logo or mascot on their materials, or promote their group on university websites. The group sued in 2005, stating that the university’s policies violated religious freedom. This week, the Supreme Court announced that it would not hear an appeal from Christian groups challenging discrimination policies in California state universities.

Worst of all, in 2010, the Supreme Court heard a case, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, regarding whether or not the Christian Legal Society at University of California’s Hastings Law School could continue to require its leaders be Christians. The court ruled 5-4 that schools can force religious and political student organizations to admit members and leaders who do not share the group’s beliefs. This decision has set a dangerous precedent, to say the least.

While some schools have ruled in favor of the groups, it doesn’t lessen the gravity of the problem. The point is this: there is a double standard in our educational system. Any objective thinking individual can see the hypocrisy in policies that claim to promote diversity and yet discriminate against specific groups that help the student body in being diverse. If universities are going to promote tolerance, they must tolerate all viewpoints, religious persuasions, political beliefs, etc. They must allow all religious groups to set their own standards and require their members and leadership to abide by their tenets.

Honor societies discriminate. Doesn’t that violate non-discrimination policies? Should schools allow students with 2.5 GPAs to join honor societies that require 3.5 GPAs? Aren’t students facing discrimination when they are rejected on the basis of their academic record? Shouldn’t these groups be defunded for being selective in their membership? What hypocrisy! If a group isn’t selective in their membership, how can they maintain the mission and integrity of their organization?

I have no problem with Muslim student associations, atheist groups, Democratic clubs, LGBT groups, etc. having a presence on college campuses. What I do have a problem with is Christian groups being targeted, harassed, and shut down because of their beliefs. If we are going to allow clubs on campus, we cannot tell Christian or conservative groups that they are not welcomed because they adhere to certain standards. What is happening to Christian organizations is a deliberate attempt to undermine their presence and influence on college campuses.

Asking groups to fundamentally change who they are and what they believe demonstrates that there is hardly true diversity or tolerance on college campuses.

Elena Reynolds :: Cal State Polytechnic University :: San Luis Obispo, California :: @Elena_Reynolds

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21 Responses

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  1. Pastor Ed Leonard
    Jul 05, 2014 - 09:44 PM

    After 50 years in Evangelical Pastorate, I’ve learned that the only thing the Left, or the Politically Correct organizations understand is a legal proceding that calls on the court to award financial and punitive damages. Sounds harsh, perhaps even un-Christian to some. Given the posture of the Left, it almost demands a lawsuit.

    Reply
  2. Phoebe
    Jun 04, 2012 - 01:13 PM

    This was an excellent article! You clearly defined resources and examples in support of the topic and at NO time did you make disparaging remarks toward any group or person.

    Reply
  3. Elena Reynolds
    Apr 30, 2012 - 06:46 AM

    What Vanderbilt students, faculty/staff, and alumni are saying about the new “all comers” policy: http://aclj.org/free-speech-2/battle-vanderbilt-goes-national

    The ACLJ has started a petition to stop Vanderbilt’s new policy. If you wish to stand with Vanderbilt’s Christian and Catholic campus organizations please consider signing it: http://aclj.org/free-speech-2/college-forces-christian-groups-off-campus

    Reply
  4. Jim. Prokop
    Apr 25, 2012 - 08:15 PM

    Am I correct that Vandy is a private institution? Maybe they want it to be secular just as other schools are sectarian.Why must there be some religious advocacy groups on campus? I attended a state university with NO sectarian organizations on campus. I never considered it a problem not did anyone else I knew. If you wanted religion you went OFF campus with several churches to choose from. As I said in my previous post…why not enjoy your life and forget about the Christian Reformation…at least while on campus. You can find it elsewhere…especially in Nashville and most areas of the south. There is more to life then your religion.

    Reply
    • Dee
      Apr 04, 2013 - 02:54 AM

      Almost every college–including public institutions–have student-led religious groups from a variety of faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Bahai, Mormon, Hindu, etc. etc. Would any university force the Muslim Student Association to accept Jewish or Christian students as leaders??? I think not. Nor, do I think they would force Hillel to have Christian or Muslim or Hindu officers. These are STUDENT led groups and should be able to be “exclusive” to their belief system.

      Reply
  5. Jim. Prokop
    Apr 17, 2012 - 06:01 AM

    I find it hard to believe any college or university in the south is hostile to religion…period. Maybe you should concentrate your efforts on secular study and enjoying your life on earth rather than proselytizing to others.A little less Christian Reformation and building of the Theocracy just might solve your problems and add a little joy to your life and that of your fellow men/women. Problem solved! If your life is NOTHING but a nail then you will always be wary of the hammer. Got it.

    Reply
    • Elena Reynolds
      Apr 19, 2012 - 04:56 PM

      This article did not just talk about universities in the south. This is a nationwide problem. Many students that come to southern universities are not from the south. Therefore, just because a university is located in the south does not mean anything. That’s important to remember.

      If you’re still in doubt that universities in the south, such as Vanderbilt, can be hostile to religion, I suggest you read the following link: http://www.citizenlink.com/2012/04/12/vanderbilt-university-makes-catholic-student-group-change-its-name/
      There are also links at the bottom of that page about related issues at Vanderbilt. These are facts, like it or not.

      Reply
  6. Nat
    Mar 25, 2012 - 06:57 AM

    This is an excellent article, Elena! As a graduate of Vanderbilt, I am extremely disappointed to see the direction my school and so many others are going. Although I am not a Christian myself, there is no doubt that Christians are being targeted by non-discrimination policies. I have not yet seen other groups singled out by non-discrimination policies on college campus (but I’m sure there are some cases). It’s ironic that non-discrimination policies are being used to increase discrimination! Thank you for your accurate presentation of the facts and thoughtful analysis. The idea that groups would be forced to have leaders who don’t believe in the objectives of the group is preposterous (especially with religious or political groups). Even in membership, I personally believe that if an individual cannot meet the standards set by that group, they should not be a part of it. Christians, or any other religious groups, cannot be forced to violate their conscience by admitting or retaining members, especially those in leadership, who are unwilling to submit to the belief systems of the group. You raised an excellent point with honor societies. If universities doesn’t want to discriminate, then anyone, regardless of their GPA should be admitted and should be able to serve as a leader. What’s next? Women leading all male groups? Men leading all female groups? Christians leading Atheists? Muslims leading Buddhists? It’s laughable. Thank you for covering an ongoing story that is rarely discussed by the mainstream media. It’s a refreshing change!

    Reply
  7. MG
    Mar 25, 2012 - 12:13 AM

    As a former Vanderbilt student I also feel the need to comment here.
    The idea that Vandy might be hostile to Christians is one of the most absurd things I’ve ever heard. While I was there there were multiple times when we awoke to swasticas drawn around the campus and most people were totally unconcerned about this because, well, the vast majority of students on campus are Christian. There is a Baptist student center on frat row and frat houses with crosses in their front yards, frats and sororities openly held bible studies and non Christian students were often made to feel VERY uncomfortable.
    Please make sure you’re better informed before you write these articles.

    Reply
  8. Sophia
    Mar 24, 2012 - 06:43 PM

    H – You stated,”Obviously, it doesn’t make much sense to have members whose beliefs run counter to the group, and I don’t think anyone should (or is) telling you that you can’t form groups that are selective in the ways that you prefer.” That is the point of the article. These universities are not requiring the Democratic Club to allow Republican officers or the Atheist clubs to have Christian officers. They are only forcing Christian clubs to violate their own standards. Why? Universities used to be forums where all points of view were welcomed and students could form their own opinions after examining various belief systems. Increasingly they are becoming indoctrination centers, silencing viewpoints with which they disagree, using speech codes and the power of the purse.

    Reply
    • H
      Mar 24, 2012 - 07:07 PM

      I realize that is the point of the article. MY POINT is that the universities should not be required to condone or financially support groups that are at odds with the universities’ values.

      Reply
    • MG
      Mar 25, 2012 - 12:05 AM

      Sophia, I’m assuming that the GLBT people who wanted to join Christian groups considered themselves Christians, so not allowing them to join would be an issue of discrimination.
      I think that one of the issues that H explained what that a University funded group is different has to adhere to some standards. One of the issues I saw in one of the examples was that a pro abstinance pro life group required people to be Christian even though they were not part of a church. If someone adhered to their ideas but were Muslim or Jewish, not allowing them to join is discrimination based on their religion.

      Reply
    • michelle
      Mar 26, 2012 - 05:21 PM

      Can you point out where in this article a Republican person wanted to join a Democratic club, was deined and the school sided with the club?

      Its simple: The school has a non-discrimation policy, Christian clubs that recieve school funding want to discrimate, school pulls funding, Christian groups claim they’re being discrimated against.

      They can still have their club meetings – just not with school funding, which includes school meeting sites.

      Reply
    • Larry A. Singleton
      Mar 10, 2013 - 07:02 AM

      Here’s your answer:

      The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America by David Horowitz
      Ivory Towers On Sand: The Failure of Middle Eastern Studies in America by Martin Kramer
      Indoctrination U: The Left’s War Against Academic Freedom by David Horowitz
      The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers
      Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage and the Family by Stephen Baskerville

      Reply
  9. H
    Mar 24, 2012 - 12:54 AM

    Obviously, it doesn’t make much sense to have members whose beliefs run counter to the group, and I don’t think anyone should (or is) telling you that you can’t form groups that are selective in the ways that you prefer. However, you can’t expect a university to fund, support, and be affiliated with a group whose mission runs counter to their’s. You are basically asking them to do the same thing that you are complaining about. If a university chooses not to condone or be associated with homophobia, that should be their choice. If you feel the need to discriminate based on sexual orientation, that should be your choice. You just can’t expect other people to support that message.

    Reply
  10. JezabelleDisreali
    Mar 23, 2012 - 07:47 PM

    And yet you ask the very same thing of other groups. I am president of a Pagan group and even though many members have no love for Christianity, and Christians often harrass us, we can’t kick them out of meetings and events unless they assault someone. It seems to me to be very hypocrtical to demand that we respect your groups, and then parade your beliefs in a very rude fashion through our clubs.

    Reply
    • Sophia
      Mar 23, 2012 - 09:02 PM

      Your comment has no relationship to the article. Did you read the article? The point was to draw attention to specific instances where Christian groups have been forced to violate their tenets (conscience) by allowing officers and members into their groups who do not share their religious beliefs. She stated that she had no problem with any groups on campus, including yours. The article had nothing to do with groups harassing one another, only that Christian groups are being targeted. The author gives no indication that she herself is involved in any Christian group and appears to be an objective observer of the facts.

      Reply
      • Jared
        Jul 10, 2012 - 02:17 AM

        Sophia, are you stating that his comment has no relation because you care only about Christians? Who is the intolerant one now?

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