Campus Christian Groups Should Be Allowed to Remain Christian

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I think I’m over the stomach bug that laid me up this weekend, so let’s get back to this blogging thing. Today, the New York Times informs me that university Christian groups are losing official recognition because they won’t agree to allow anyone, regardless of religious beliefs, to become a group leader:

At Cal State, the nation’s largest university system with nearly 450,000 students on 23 campuses, the chancellor is preparing this summer to withdraw official recognition from evangelical groups that are refusing to pledge not to discriminate on the basis of religion in the selection of their leaders. And at Vanderbilt, more than a dozen groups, most of them evangelical but one of them Catholic, have already lost their official standing over the same issue; one Christian group balked after a university official asked the students to cut the words “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” from their list of qualifications for leadership.

At most universities that have begun requiring religious groups to sign nondiscrimination policies, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and mainline Protestant groups have agreed, saying they do not discriminate and do not anticipate that the new policies will cause problems. Hillel, the largest Jewish student organization, says some chapters have even elected non-Jews to student boards.

Apparently this was sparked by a court decision that ruled it was OK for public universities to deny recognition to student groups that exclude gays—including Christian groups. I’m fine with that. But requiring Christian groups to allow non-believers to lead Bible studies and prayer services and so forth? That seems pretty extreme. I have to admit that if I were a member of a campus Christian group, I’d have a hard time believing there were no ulterior motives at work here.

As for the Jewish/Muslim/Catholic/etc. groups that “do not anticipate” problems, I hope they’re right. But this is the kind of thing that’s ripe for mischief-making. I can easily imagine a bunch of campus halfwits who think it would be the funniest joke in the world to join a religious group en masse and then elect an atheist president. These are 19-year-olds we’re dealing with, after all.

But maybe not. Perhaps that requires too much sustained effort. Nonetheless, if it were up to me, I’d allow Jewish groups to remain Jewish and Christian groups to remain Christian if that’s what they want to do. It’s hard to see the harm.

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