For many years, Christian student groups at the university level have fought for their very existence on campus. University officials frequently isolate these groups for discrimination, and have done so, paradoxically, under the banner of “non-discrimination” policy.
This ironic injustice begins innocently enough. University administrators gather and discuss the evils of discrimination. With righteous indignation, they go on about how no student should ever be left out of a club due to race, sex, or national origin. And then, as they formulate policy, little leftist birdies whisper in their ears about religion and sexual orientation being protected categories as well. The upshot is a promulgated non-discrimination policy mandating compliance from all student groups, with administrators going home feeling good about themselves.
But while all this might seem fitting on the surface, a non-discrimination policy–with the inclusion of religion and sexual orientation–spurs more discrimination than it prevents.
Administrators tend to gloss over the unequal impact the policy has on religiously-based groups. While it makes sense to keep the Chess Club from barring African-American students, or the Engineering Society from excluding Latinos, the rationale starts to break down when it prohibits Christian groups from maintaining leadership that agree with the mission.
Any student group, whether Christian or not, must necessarily consist of like-minded people who come together on the basis of shared values, make policies in line with those values, and choose leaders that best represent those values.
Universities apparently recognize this truism in permitting fraternities and sororities to exist without forced mixing of the sexes. They don’t require College Democrats to offer leadership positions to registered Republicans. They don’t compel the Vegetarian club to include meat-lovers or the Gay & Lesbian Club to recognize input from contrarians. Yet, they insist on pushing non-believers on Christian student groups, causing these groups to either abandon their official recognition or their values in the process.
Noting this absurdity, Virginia legislators have recently taken action, passing a bill through the House and the Senate this month protecting students’ constitutional rights on campus. It reads:
“A religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization’s internal affairs, selecting the organization’s leaders and members, defining the organization’s doctrines, and resolving the organization’s disputes are in furtherance of the organization’s religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities; and no public institution of higher education that has granted recognition of and access to any student organization or group shall discriminate against any such student organization or group that exercises its rights” (HB 1617.)
In a campus culture where evangelical Christian students face hostility with increased regularity, this common-sense bill is a welcome clarification. Virginia’s governor would do well to sign it into law, and other states would do well to follow Virginia’s lead. Christian student groups, like any other student group, should enjoy the freedom to be.
Posted by Nate Kellum