David French, in a very revealing December 8 post that I had missed on Phi Beta Cons, brings to our attention an embarrassing tactic that administrators sometimes use to attack students who ask that their constitutional rights be respected:
Within a day after the Christian Legal Society and the Alliance Defense Fund filed suit to protect the rights of a Christian fraternity at the University of Georgia, the school reversed course, recognized the fraternity, and pledged to study its policies. While this is all good news, and UGA’s president, Michael Adams, should be commended for his quick action, he did make one troubling statement. At a press conference, he made the following observation regarding the suit:
“I’m going to put my Christian hat on for a moment — I think there are ways that Christian people are supposed to be able to solve problems without litigation,” he said. “Let’s see if we can find enough common ground to both ensure no one’s religious rights are abridged and secondly that the university ensures that people are not being discriminated against.”
Well, isn’t that charming? President Adams apparently believes that it’s appropriate, after denying this Christian fraternity the right to associate around their shared beliefs, to lecture them on how Christians shouldn’t turn to litigation against other Christians. This from a man whose administration was apparently so convinced that it would lose the lawsuit (and rightfully so) that it settled one day after it was filed. This isn’t “finding common ground,” it is playing chicken with the U.S. Constitution, and for Adams, a public official whose responsibility is to uphold the Constitution, to try to guilt trip Christian students into uncomplaining obedience to the university’s unlawful writ is simply unconscionable.
FIRE has seen, however, that this kind of guilt trip can work, particularly on Christian students who are willing to “turn the other cheek” to blatantly unlawful abridgments of their religious rights. In fact, it’s very common among both the Christian groups and students we work with and with many who, in the end, decline FIRE’s help because of this very reason—their willingness to render unto Caesar. It is their right to make the choice to live with oppression, and there can undoubtedly be a moral worth to it, just as there can be in fighting oppression. However, these students, in the United States of America, should never have to make that choice. Our nation has time and time again paid the cost in lives and treasure in order to avoid having a Caesar. For college and university administrators to assume that this leaves a power vacuum into which they can step with repressive policies is, well, a sin.