Vanderbilt U: Bow to Us!
On university campuses across the country, there is no greater fetish than “non-discrimination.” Most schools would rather burn down their football stadium than risk being accused of treating, or allowing anyone living on its parallel dimension, to discriminate in any way, shape, or form, unless the discrimination is against religious people. Exhibit A: Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
Vanderbilt is sometimes mistakenly thought to be a Christian institution because it was founded as an affiliate of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. In fact, it cut its ties to Methodism in 1914. It cut it ties to American freedom in the last couple of years.
At Vanderbilt, anyone is allowed to start a student club or organization. You are not allowed, however, to discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion, either in membership or leadership. So, presumably, the local chapter of Black Student Alliance must allow whites to serve as leaders (though there is no White Students Union for blacks to run, for obvious reasons). The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Life (LGBTQI Life ) Center must allow straight students to serve as leaders as well. Women’s Club Soccer must allow men to play, as does the Women’s Lacrosse Club. And if the university heard that any of these organizations were keeping white, straight, or male students from participating and leading, they’d be taken to the woodshed.
This little rant is provoked by the latest news from Vanderbilt, in which clubs with a First Amendment right to determine their own leadership are informed that VU has seceded from the United States. According to the Christian Post:
In the ongoing debate over religious freedom at Vanderbilt University, the school has ended its registration period, acknowledging 400 student organizations, out of 469 submissions, as university-affiliated. Twenty-six of those organizations accepted are faith-based, while more than a dozen religious organizations have lost their membership due to their refusal to accept the administrators’ all-comers policy.
The religious groups accepted as university student organizations include: Presbyterian Student Fellowship; Vanderbilt Baptist Campus Ministries; Vanderbilt Hillel; Wesley/Canterbury Fellowship, a United Methodist and Episcopal student ministry; Commodores for Christ, a Church of Christ-affiliated organization; and Society of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the Catholic medical school organization, according the university’s official news page.
The issue surrounding this disparity is in regards to the university’s new all-comers policy, implemented in Jan. 2012. The policy prohibits campus groups from selecting members and leaders based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
Eleven Christian groups opposing the “all-comers” policy formed Vanderbilt Unity, supported by the Alliance Defense Fund. These groups include Asian American Christian Fellowship, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cru, Medical Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Graduate Christian Fellowship, Bridges International, Lutheran Student Fellowship, Every Nation Ministries, Beta Upsilon Chi, and Christian Legal Society, according to Inside Vandy, Vanderbilt University’s student newspaper.
In Vanderbilt’s alternative reality, groups that define themselves by beliefs or causes are no different from those that define themselves by racial, gender, or sexual orientation characteristics. So, if a Republican wants to join the College Democrats to get access to political strategy documents, he can. If a pro-lifer wants to join Law Students for Reproductive Justice in order to make every meeting a debate over Roe v. Wade, she can. And if atheists want to join the Navigators and demand that they be put in charge, the administration will be right behind them.
“Obviously, we are disappointed that some religious groups have either not applied for registered student status or submitted applications that do not comply with the policy. We will continue our conversations with them into the next academic year,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty said in a statement.
“All along, we have stressed that the policy is about rejecting discrimination and not about restricting religious freedom. We firmly believe the two principles can coexist on the Vanderbilt campus, and are gratified that many of our religious student organizations agree,” McCartney said in the statement.
Similarly, Beth Fortune, vice chancellor for public affairs at the university, previously told The Washington Post, “This debate is about nondiscrimination, not religious freedom, and we stand behind our policy.”
Apparently it has never occurred to these people that, by prohibiting religious groups from setting religious standards for their own leadership, they—the school administrators—are engaging in the worst kind of discrimination. They are saying, in effect, that these groups must go along with the political beliefs of Vanderbilt administration, or they will be denied the rights and privileges of recognized groups. Of course, for fanatical anti-discriminators to recognize that they are themselves engaged in discrimination would no doubt cause them to explode, like Nomad in the Star Trek episode, “The Changeling.”
Now, one could argue that the groups that oppose the university policy could change their charters to comply with the all-comers policy and then ignore it, elect leaders who are Christians, and defy the university to do anything about it. But why should they? Why should they give up their freedom, even just on paper, to act in accord with their faith? Why should they be bullied into submission by an administration that hasn’t got a clue that it is trampling all over the First Amendment, and placing restrictions and requirements on student religious groups that the U.S. Supreme Court just unanimously rejected when the federal government tried to place them on churches? (Yes, I know that Christian Legal Society v. Martinez seems to suggest otherwise, but that was because lawyers for the student group made a fatal error in the lower courts, as Lyle Denniston’s column at SCOTUSBlog makes clear.)
The administrators at Vanderbilt can claim till they’re blue in the face that this “is about rejecting discrimination and not about restricting religious freedom.” In fact, it is about discriminating against religious believers, and requiring them to kneel before the god of political correctness.
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