Banned Christian fellowship allowed to meet on Ohio campus, for now

March 4, 2009

A Christian fellowship group that was denied registration from Wright State University in Ohio because of its faith-based policies has now been granted recognition by campus officials – for now that is.

Representatives of Campus Bible Fellowship received an e-mail Monday evening from the university’s director of student activities that they would be reinstated for the remainder of the school year.

"It told us that that CBF was reinstated – that we could meet and schedule rooms and that all rights and privileges are restored for rest of school year," Gary Holtz, who oversees the chapter, told The Christian Post.

While Holtz was pleased with the decision, he said he anticipates the same roadblock in May when the group has to register for the Fall.

"The problem," he noted, "is that come May we have to go back and go through the same process. I anticipate that we’re going to run into the same thing before, the same issues."

The Christian fellowship, which offers one-on-one and group Bible studies, has not been allowed to meet on Wright State campus in Dayton, Ohio, since Jan. 30. CBF representatives reported that the Office of Student Activities rejected the group because of its requirement that voting members "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior" and because the group refused to accept "nondiscrimination" language that would eliminate a requirement that voting members maintain religious and behavioral standards.

Following the rejection, CBF turned to The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which defends First Amendment rights – including religious liberty – on college campuses, for help.

FIRE wrote a letter to the university’s president, calling for an immediate reversal of the ban on the Wright State CBF chapter, and issued a press release on the CBF ban Monday afternoon.

Four hours later, the school issued a statement in response to repeated media inquiries on the case.

Robert L. Shibley, FIRE’s vice president, told The Christian Post, he believes that embarrassment drove the school to reinstate the group.

He said the rejection was a "violation of religious liberty and freedom of association."

In a statement sent to journalists, Dan Abrahamowicz, vice president for student affairs at Wright State University, said CBF was a "recognized student organization" at the school.

"We do not discriminate on the basis of religion and we treat Campus Bible Fellowship like any other student group on campus," stated Abrahamowicz.

In an e-mail to, Abrahamowicz said the group is not banned and blamed "a lack of clarity in university student organization policy which delayed recognition for a few days."

Speaking to The Christian Post, Holtz disputed Abrahamowicz’s response.

"That’s not correct at all. They specifically told us that we were not registered and could not schedule rooms," said Holtz. "We’ve just not been able to do any advertising and recruiting."

The decision to ban CBF, said FIRE, goes against Wright State recognition procedures, which allow student organizations created for "deepening the religious faith of students within the context of a denominational or interdenominational grouping" to go through "customary procedures."

Holtz said the month-long ban has hampered the group’s ability to meet students for Bible study. He said that the group plans to meet for regular Bible studies and hold game nights with another local CBF chapter now that it has been reinstated.

Shibley said that while FIRE doesn’t engage in litigation, the organization would help CBF find legal counsel if the need arises.

"We hope that they will reevaluate its policy and change it soon. If they don’t, they are looking at a lawsuit," he said.

Schools: Wright State University Cases: Wright State University: Christian Group Banned from Campus