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Christian Group Wins Religious Recognition at University of North Carolina

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By Katherine Weber, Christian Post Reporter
May 23, 2012|2:35 pm

A Christian student group has dropped a lawsuit against the University of North Carolina-Greensboro after the university agreed to officially recognize the group as religious, therefore making the group exempt from the university's nondiscrimination policy.

The legal group the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) filed the lawsuit on behalf of the "Make Up Your Own Mind" club, a pro-abstinence, pro-life group, after the university refused to acknowledge it as a religious group.

According to the university's nondiscrimination policy, non-religious groups must offer open membership to all students, regardless of their religious beliefs.

This would not allow members of "Make Up Your Own Mind" to elect leaders who hold the same beliefs and values.

However, there is an exemption in the university's nondiscrimination policy which allows religious groups to choose their members and leaders based on religious beliefs.

As previously reported by The Christian Post, university officials failed to recognize the group as religious because it did not have the official sponsorship of a congregation or denomination.

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ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco told The Christian Post in March that there are very few religious student groups on campus which actually do receive sponsorship from a local church. Additionally, the group's mission statement is Christian in nature.

After the ADF filed the lawsuit in Feb. 2012 at the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, the university decided to classify "Make Up Your Own Mind" as religious and clarify its nondiscrimination policy to exempt religious groups. Subsequently the ADF dropped the lawsuit.

"Saying that a Christian club isn't religious is not only absurd, it also means the government is playing theologian, which it is not constitutionally permitted to do," said ADF Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco in a statement.

"The university has done the right thing in recognizing this club and clarifying that the university's policies permit religious and other belief-based student groups to be led by those who agree with their beliefs. The Constitution protects the right of all student groups to employ belief-based criteria in selecting their members and leaders, and this settlement has ensured that this right will be respected at UNC-Greensboro moving forward," he added.

According to the court settlement document, the nondiscrimination policy has been altered to state that its intent is "to preserve the lawful associational, free speech and free exercise rights of all students by allowing them to form 'groups that select their members on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs.'"

"The nature, depth or type of the group's beliefs (whether they are religious, political or other) will not be a factor in determining whether a group receives recognition," the statement adds.

A similar battle is currently being fought, on a much larger scale, at Vanderbilt University, a small, private college located in Nashville, Tenn.

Administrators at Vanderbilt University recently approved a new all-comers policy, which forces all student groups, both religious and non-religious, to allow all to apply for leadership positions, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, or religious beliefs.

Vanderbilt's Greek life is exempt from this policy.

Although 11 of the university's Christian groups have unified to form the group Vanderbilt Unity to protest the all-comers policy and Tennessee lawmakers have attempted to pass legislation to change the all-comers policy, the private university continues to stand by its new rules.

 

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