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.