SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., December 19, 2005—California State University at San Bernardino (CSUSB) has refused to recognize a Christian student organization for requiring its members to live according to the group’s religious faith. The Christian Student Association (CSA) at CSUSB contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help after the university said that the group’s statements on faith and sexual morality were “not permissible.”
“Time after time, college administrators have robbed students of their fundamental freedoms of association and religion, so CSA’s situation sadly comes as no surprise,” remarked FIRE Director of Legal and Public Advocacy Greg Lukianoff. “CSUSB, like so many other universities, is misusing nondiscrimination policies to tell Christian students that they cannot associate based upon the dictates of their faith.”
This fall, CSA submitted a constitution pledging that the group will not discriminate on the basis of “race, color, national origin, gender, or physical disability,” but reserving the right to restrict membership based on religious beliefs and sexual orientation. In October, a university administrator informed the group that although they “would not be required to admit members who did not support the purpose of the organization (beliefs),” they could not exclude students “because of their status as a non-Christian or as a homosexual.”
FIRE has defeated similar mistreatment of Christian and Muslim student groups at Tufts University (2000), Rutgers University (2003), the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2003), Purdue University (2004), The Ohio State University (2004), Louisiana State University (2005), Milwaukee School of Engineering (2005), and other institutions.
“CSA is not discriminating based on students’ status, but trying to express its religious faith and adhere to its beliefs regarding sexual morality,” remarked Lukianoff. “As FIRE has pointed out so many times, student groups at public universities have a right to ensure that their members share their central beliefs.”
The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has already filed a legal challenge to the California State University system’s policy denying student religious organizations the right to govern themselves according to their own religious principles. In spite of that ongoing challenge, CSUSB, a member of the California State system, is standing by its policies and continues to deny CSA official recognition.
“Efforts by FIRE and ADF to defeat unconstitutional restrictions on students’ freedom of association have been extremely successful,” stated Lukianoff. “The Constitution ensures that Muslim groups are free to be Muslim, Buddhist groups are free to be Buddhist, and Christian groups are free to be Christian, even if the principles they express run counter to the official viewpoints or unconstitutional policies of state universities.”
FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, due process, freedom of expression, academic freedom, and rights of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty at California State University at San Bernardino can be viewed at thefire.org/csusb.