Our universities threaten our religion, our culture, and our national security (exhibit A: Brown)

November 20, 2006

Last month, Brown University suspended its largest evangelical organization, with over a hundred students the student group was one of the largest on campus. Rev. Janet Cooper Nelson, Director of Brown’s Office of Chaplains and Religious Life, justified the suspension as the result of the organization’s sponsoring church, Trinity Presbyterian Church, withdrawing its support for the organization. Within minutes of receiving the e-mail that Trinity had withdrawn its support David Sherwood, Trinity Senior Pastor, wrote to Brown’s Office of Chaplains and Religious Life to assert that Trinity had not withdrawn its support for the evangelical organization and was actually very happy that the student group was affiliated with his church.

What’s going on here? It must just be an egregious miscommunication or perhaps a case of mistaken identity, maybe Rev. Nelson had mixed up this evangelical organization with some other whose respective sponsoring church had actually withdrawn its support. Either way it could be easily remedied with a quick e-mailed apology from Brown.

Rev. Allan Callahan, Brown’s Associate Protestant Chaplain, then claimed that the evangelical organization was not actually a recognized student group, in fact, they hadn’t been recognized since the previous year. Apparently the previous group leader had been tardy in the submission of a required form for the Office of Religious Life. If this was the real reason, then why fabricate the charge that Trinity had withdrawn its sponsorship?

Curiously, no one in the organization was aware that they were suspended. Apparently, no one in the Office of Religious Life bothered to tell them. The group retained the right to reserve rooms for regular meetings throughout the school year, a right not granted to derecognized organizations. Maybe Rev. Callahan was referring to some sort of “double secret probation” of the type Dean Wormer placed on the Delta fraternity in Animal House. That would explain why the evangelical group was unaware of their suspension. At any rate, the evangelical organization has turned in all the requisite paperwork for this year; there’s no reason the sins of a previous group leader should be visited upon this year’s leadership.

Instead of pursuing the accusation of previous suspension and attempting to demonstrate that the organization had indeed been suspended the previous year, Rev. Callahan accused the evangelical organization of having “become possessed of a leadership culture of contempt and dishonesty.” Furthermore, Callahan claimed, the organization’s “repeated and willful failure to be respectful and transparent in its dealings with” his office had made the organization “the topic of more meetings, e-mails, letters, and phone calls” than all the other organizations affiliated with the Office of Religious Life combined.

Taken aback, the evangelical group immediately responded with a letter signed by all the members of the organization’s leadership. They first declared that they had no knowledge that their group was possessed of a “culture of contempt and dishonesty” and then they humbly asked for correction if they had indeed been in error, they only requested that the Office of Religious Life actually provide proof that such a culture existed. No one from Rev. Callahan’s office responded to the organization’s request.

In desperation, the organization contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) who wrote to Brown, requesting that they either explain the suspension or revoke it. Russell Carey, Interim Vice President of Campus Life and Student Services, responded to FIRE stating that he believed the Office of Religious Life’s treatment of the evangelical organization was appropriate.

So one of the nation’s elite universities suspended a Christian group first on a demonstrably false claim, then on an old infraction with no bearing on the present status of the group, and when all else failed issued a vague and unsubstantiated accusation of creating a “culture of contempt and dishonest.” All this from Brown, founded as a Baptist school seeking a religious alternative to Harvard and Yale; one would think that religious liberty would be the pride of the campus. Brown delights in allowing its students to choose their own curriculum, but apparently not their own religious affiliation.

At a deeper level Brown displays two disturbing modern pathologies: contempt for the religious beliefs and traditions that form the foundations of our culture and an actual “culture of contempt and dishonesty.” The traditions and practices of every culture are formed around the core beliefs of a given society; in ours, this was the Christian faith. The antipathy toward conservative religious beliefs displayed by the Brown Office of Religious Life is only a microcosm of a general distaste for traditional Christian beliefs at American universities.

Students are taught to believe that the faith of our Fathers is not just questionable or even challengeable, but odious. So we have Christian groups threatened with derecognition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Princeton University, Gonzaga University, and many more. Columnist Mike Adams has talked at length about anti-Christian bias at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where he teaches Criminology; professors calling Christianity a “violent religion” and this in the face of our nation’s struggle with a religion that actually is violent. Job candidates are turned down because they are too much of a “family man” or because they “seem too religious.” Prominent religious liberty attorney David French recounts a time sitting on an admissions committee at Cornell Law School when an evangelical student was nearly rejected for admission solely because of his evangelical beliefs; he was only accepted when French, an honors graduate of Harvard Law and successful corporate litigator, spoke up in his defense.

So universities hate Christians and use crooked tactics to keep them off our nation’s campuses, what does this mean for our national security? It means that our nation’s children are raised with either disdain or embarrassment for the beliefs that form the basis of our culture and social institutions. It means that our nation’s children are taught that dishonesty is a viable means of combating ideas with which one disagrees. It means students at Columbia see no problem rioting to suppress the expression of an idea they find distasteful with barely a blink from Columbia’s administration. It means we produce leaders who think it better to hide Mark Foley’s transgressions than to govern with honesty and integrity.

We can’t expect those so raised to defend American culture when they are taught it is inherently corrupt and we can’t expect to produce leaders that will champion the American cause with passion and integrity.

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Schools: Brown University Cases: Brown University: Wrongful Suspension of Religious Student Group