Welcome to College (Where Religious Freedom Goes to Die?)

Three perspectives on the recent ‘De-recognition’ of campus Christian fellowships

When colleges and universities enforce “inclusion” by excluding some religious voices, they cripple the spirit of free inquiry and robust debate that should be at the heart of their mission.

Founded at Cambridge University in 1877, University of Michigan students established the first U.S. chapter in 1937. Today, there are I.V. chapters on over 600 U.S. campuses with over 40,000 members, 38% of whom identify themselves as ethnic minorities.
A new threat to campus diversity and inclusivity? Founded at Cambridge University in 1877, University of Michigan students established the first U.S. InterVarsity chapter in 1937. Today, I.V. has chapters on over 600 U.S. campuses with over 40,000 members, 38% of whom identify themselves as ethnic minorities.

Welcome to College (Where religious freedom goes to die)

By Charles C. Haynes, PhD • First Amendment Center

In the Orwellian world of many college and university campuses, all faiths are welcome — but some faiths are more welcome than others.

Just last month, California State University (CSU) “derecognized” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical student organization with more than 900 chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

In plain English, this means InterVarsity no longer will be a recognized student club at any of the 23 schools in the CSU system.

InterVarsity can still meet on campus — but minus the benefits accorded recognized student organizations, including access to meeting rooms and official university events. Not only will InterVarsity now have a difficult time reaching students, an InterVarsity spokesman estimates that losing these benefits will cost each chapter up to $20,000 annually.

Derecognition of conservative religious groups is happening at many other schools, an exclusionary process that is affecting student organizations representing evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics and others.

Why are colleges and universities — places of higher learning supposedly committed to the free exchange of ideas and beliefs — withdrawing recognition from these groups?

For one simple reason: InterVarsity and other conservative religious clubs require student officers to affirm the faith of the group they lead…

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Dr. Charles C. Haynes is director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute and a senior scholar at the First Amendment Center. He writes and speaks extensively on religious liberty and religion in American public life.

InterVarsity ‘De-Recognized’ At California State University Campuses

By Kimberly Winston • Religion News Service

UofM InterVarsity founders, circa 1937
UofM InterVarsity founders, circa 1937

A well-established international Christian student group is being denied recognition at almost two dozen California college campuses because it requires leaders to adhere to Christian beliefs, effectively closing its leadership ranks to non-Christians and gays.

California State University, which has 23 campuses, is “de-recognizing” local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. The university system says InterVarsity’s leadership policy conflicts with its state-mandated nondiscrimination policy requiring membership and leadership in all official student groups be open to all.

“For an organization to be recognized, they must sign a general nondiscrimination policy,” said Mike Uhlencamp, director of public affairs for the California State University system. “We have engaged with (InterVarsity) for the better part of a year and informed them they would have to sign a general nondiscrimination statement. They have not.”

InterVarsity, active in the United States since 1947, has been challenged on more than 40 college campuses, but CSU, with 447,000 students, is the largest to ban it so far. Other schools that have challenged InterVarsity include Vanderbilt University, Rollins College and Tufts University…

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Kimberly Winston is a freelance religion reporter based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, USA Today, The Washington Post, The San Jose Mercury News and Newsweek.

The new college ‘thought police’

By Jay Parini CNN

InteVarsityOklahoma1There has always been a fine line between freedom of speech and the right to practice one’s religion in the way one sees fit. The Founding Fathers struggled over these rights in framing the First Amendment, with Thomas Jefferson calling for “a wall of separation”between church and state — a wall that has become mighty thin in recent years.

But now, the freedom to practice religion on campuses around the country, including at Bowdoin — an elite liberal arts college in Maine — has crashed into anti-discrimination policies, which also have a long and complicated history in this country.

The gist of the story is this: The Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, a conservative religious group that has lived quietly on campus for four decades, is being kicked off the official roster of college-backed groups. Their keys to college buildings have already been confiscated, and the administration won’t recognize them any longer. The problem is that this group, like many groups of its ilk, insist their leaders must adhere to its version of Christian doctrine.

This problem is widespread now, playing out across the country, as at Cal State and Vanderbilt, where Christian groups, including, earlier, a Roman Catholic organization at Vanderbilt, have been forced off-campus because they refuse to allow their leadership to be drawn from people who don’t adhere to their essential tenets. Let me put this plainly: Houston, we have a problem!

I’ve been a college professor for nearly four decades, and I’ve seen problems with the so-called thought police come and go over the years. At the height of the problem in the mid-’80 and ’90s, it was imagined by many — especially those on the right — that universities had become politically correct to the point where any kind of conservative thought was forbidden.

Certainly these were vital years for the advancement of feminist thought in particular, and for the acceptance of gays as full citizens within the academy (full acceptance by the society at large is only now taking hold). For the most part, I always thought the idea of a liberal thought police was nonsense…

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Jay Parini, a poet and novelist, teaches at Middlebury College in Vermont. He has just published “Jesus: The Human Face of God,” a biography of Jesus. Follow him on Twitter@JayParini

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