NOTE: The article excerpted on this page is from an outside publication and is posted on FIRE's website because it references FIRE's work. The viewpoints expressed in this article do not necessarily represent FIRE's positions.
One News Now
Vanderbilt University is continuing to defend its policy of forcing Christian clubs on campus to allow students who don’t agree with Christian teachings to run for leadership positions in those organizations (see earlier story).
The university held a campus meeting last night to hear varying points of view surrounding the school’s requirement that Christian student organizations comply with its non-discrimination policy. The Christian groups have argued that the policy violates their right to be led by fellow believers who support their beliefs and principles, including sexual abstinence before marriage.
Dr. Carol Swain, a Christian professor at the school who was in attendance, says nothing was resolved.
“I think that there are some people on campus who believe that there’s no place for religious organizations [here], and this is an opportunity for people who oppose the views of religious groups to go in [and] create havoc,” Swain stated in an interview with Fox News.
According to the Vanderbilt educator, school officials counseled that if a club elects a leader “who creates problems,” that group can dissolve and reassemble.
“So the university is basically saying that if this happens, it can destroy your group — but you can go and reassemble as a different group. It makes no sense,” she stated.
Swain suggested that Vanderbilt may be under pressure from certain donors who disagree with the biblical stand being taken by the campus Christian clubs.
According to Robert Shibley of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), so many opponents and supporters showed up at Tuesday’s meeting that some people could not get in. He reports that the closed-to-the-public meeting was emotionally charged. (Listen to audio report)
“Apparently, the starting quarterback for the Vanderbilt football team actually took on the administrators there and then walked out with a group of people in protest,” he details. “So tensions are definitely running high there, and it sounds like the policy went over about like a lead balloon.”
The controversial policy came about after a Christian fraternity on campus dismissed a member who admitted he was “gay.” That prompted school officials to investigate all campus organizations.
“Vanderbilt students are soon going to find out that they don’t have the freedoms that their cohorts, the University of Tennessee, do, the freedoms that their friends from high school who [have] chosen not to go to college do — that by going to Vanderbilt, they’ve actually abandoned some really fundamental American freedoms,” Shibley warns.
But as a private school, the FIRE spokesman points out that Vanderbilt does not have to respect its students’ religious freedom — even though officials claim they will. In Shibley’s opinion, they should be held accountable to that.