For a couple of years now, Christians have been fighting to obtain special rights on college campuses that allow them to discriminate against certain kinds of students while still reaping the benefits of being official campus organizations.
A year ago, we saw it happen at Bowdoin College in Maine, when leaders of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship were about to lose their designation as an official campus group (with all the privileges that came with it) because they really really really wanted to make sure nobody who supported LGBT-rights had the opportunity to become a leader of their group. School administrators, on the other hand, refused to allow official campus groups to discriminate for any reason.
Months later, leaders of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the more well-known national college Christian groups, made a plea for their members to take a stand against the California State University system. Here was IVCF President Alec Hill at the time:
Two years ago, the former Cal State chancellor issued a new policy that requires recognized student groups to accept all students as potential leaders. While we applaud inclusivity, we believe that faith-based communities like ours can only be led by people who clearly affirm historic Christian doctrine. The policy exempts sororities and fraternities from gender discrimination; we believe there should be a similar provision for creedal communities…
In August 2013, the new chancellor, Timothy White, graciously granted religious groups a one-year exemption for the 2013-14 school year. That time period is rapidly coming to a close.
Both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Psalm 91 and Acts 12) speak of times when God’s people, faced with significant challenges, entered into community prayer. We are dependent on God in all things and He invites us to make known to Him our petitions in prayer.
Their “stand” consisted of praying and fasting and not doing anything actually effective, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been *too* worried.
But before I tell you what the current status of their groups are, let’s remember what exactly they’re freaked out about.
Under the universities’ rules, groups like InterVarsity have to open up membership to everybody, including students who are LGBT or atheists.
Why would LGBT students or atheists want to join a group that so steadfastly fights against them? Who knows. How many students per campus believe in, say, marriage equality and that acting on one’s homosexuality is some sort of sin? It can’t be many.
But that didn’t matter anyway because InterVarsity (and other similar Christian groups) have said they had no problem opening up membership to that (small) group of people.
What people like Hill were worried about is that those people were going to run for leadership positions and get elected!
Not only was the likelihood of that happening slim to none, it assumed that there were students like that who would want to run an organization that holds such disgusting, abhorrent views.
That’s what they were praying to prevent.
(Trust me: Gay-friendly students are in no rush to join — much less take over — Campus Crusade for Christ groups.)
Regardless, Hill’s letter to IVCF members urged them to pray that a resolution would be reached to allow “InterVarsity chapters to remain viable members of CSU communities.” Because if they have to play by the same rules as everybody else, why even bother existing anymore?!
Cry me a river. The rules were just fine as they were. No one’s telling these group members that their group can’t promote bigotry. But if they want the campus to recognize their group as “official” and get free meeting space, access to grant money, the ability to set up tables at activity fairs, and so much more, they have to play by the same rules as every other similar student group on campus. (Fraternities and sororities were exempt from the CSU policy.)
So what’s the update?
For the past year, IVCF was not considered an officially-recognized group on CSU campuses. But they just announced yesterday that the ban is no longer in effect:
InterVarsity’s 23 chapters on 19 of the California State University (CSU) campuses will once again be recognized student groups, according to CSU and InterVarsity. InterVarsity chapters were not recognized at CSU campuses for the 2014-2015 academic year.
“Following substantive and cordial ongoing conversations, CSU clarified the intent and reach of Executive Order 1068,” said InterVarsity president Jim Lundgren. “We are confident we can choose leaders who are qualified to lead InterVarsity’s witnessing communities throughout the Cal State system.”
“Leaders who are qualified” is just shorthand for Christians who agree with their particular interpretation of Christianity. Which is longhand for “Only people who oppose LGBT rights.”
It’s not exactly clear what the new policy is. My assumption — and I’ll correct this if I’m wrong — is that CSU just decided to give IVCF an exception allowing them to set strict rules on who could apply for leadership positions.
In other words, the Christians are getting special treatment because they happen to be Christians. If any other group set limits on who could run for leadership roles — limits that excluded portions of the student population — they would have their official designation revoked without second thought.
Let’s hope other states don’t make the same mistake the officials at CSU just did by allowing discrimination to flourish with the university’s stamp of approval. There’s no reason religious groups should be given special privileges that no other group would receive — or want, for that matter.