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‘UNC Chapel Hill Tries to Spin Away a Major Defeat’

The Clarion Call, the online newsletter of The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, has published an article Samantha and I wrote about UNC Chapel Hill’s anemic attempt to spin the dismissal of a Christian fraternity’s suit against them as a victory. Some of you may remember FIRE had not one but two cases at UNC Chapel Hill in less than two years, in which the university attempted to force Christian groups to sign a statement that they would not “discriminate” on the basis of religion. As we point out:
[C]onstitutionally protected freedom of association is meaningless if a group cannot exclude people who do not share the beliefs of the group. This is both basic common sense and clearly established law. The College Democrats can exclude Republicans, the college environmental club can exclude students who hate environmentalism, and the college chess club can exclude members who hate the game and wish to see it abolished. In other words, if you form a group in order to express commonly held ideas or ideals, of course you can exclude those who disagree.
Alpha Iota Omega (AIO), the Christian fraternity at issue in the most recent case, is an evangelical organization established for the very purpose of spreading their faith. We write, “How exactly could someone who did not share the faith of AIO help spread the beliefs of AIO? You make a poor Christian evangelical if you show up at someone’s house saying ‘while I don’t actually believe in the divinity of Christ, I think you should convert to Christianity.’”
The case was dismissed after the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit, a court concluded the policy’s application to AIO was likely highly unconstitutional, UNC rewrote its policy and recognized the Christian group. We conclude:
UNC can spin this case however it wants, but the facts are not on its side. The university wasted countless hours and taxpayer dollars in a failed attempt to exclude a Christian group that only wanted to maintain its Christian identity, and then had to change its policies and recognize the group. It lost in its attempt to tell the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship it could not limit its leadership to Christians back in 2002 (an effort also apparently spearheaded by UNC administrator Jonathan Curtis), and it lost in its attempt to tell AIO it had to admit non-Christians this time around. No matter how it spins, the score is freedom of association at UNC-Chapel Hill: 2, UNC-Chapel Hill and administrators: zero.

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