Vanderbilt University is under fire for the potential suppression of religion. Four Christian student groups are being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s non-discrimination policy.
According to Vanderbilt’s student organization rules, organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. That would mean an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group and a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.
The groups under provisional status are Graduate Christian Fellowship, Christian Legal Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Sigma Phi Lamba.
Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School told Fox News, “It seems reasonable to require that leaders share the beliefs of the organizations that they seek to lead.”
Swain said, “I see it as part of a larger attack on religious freedom that’s taking place across the country – particularly when it comes to conservative groups.”
Each group’s constitution contains a clause that restricts leadership positions to individuals who share the group’s core religious beliefs. The university is in the process of determining whether these clauses violate the school’s non-discrimination policy. Until a determination is made, the groups will retain provisional status.
Swain is the faculty advisor for Christian Legal Society, one of the groups under provision. Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings. CLS President Justin Gunter told Fox News, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”
According to Fox, Interim Director of the Office of Religious Life at Vanderbilt Rev. Gretchen Person drew the line at the requirement regarding Bible studies, prayer and worship. Person is also negotiating the language in the group’s constitution that states coordinators should exemplify Christ-like qualities.
According to the campus newspaper The Vanderbilt Hustler, Patricia Helland, the Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Assessment confirmed that the university received specific feedback from the organizations in question.
“People have come back to us and said ‘what do you, mean? This is faith based. This is our value. If we change that, we are not who we are and what we’ve done is we’ve listened’,” Helland said. “We are looking at what all the issues are to make a decision.”
However, the group’s risk shut down if they remain in non-compliance. This issue came about last fall when an openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt was asked to resign from Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) because of his sexual orientation.
According to Mark Bandas, Vanderbilt’s Dean of Students, the investigations into the BYX allegations is still pending.
Afterwards, the University examined the constitutions of some 300-student groups and found about a dozen, including aforementioned groups to be in non-compliance with Vanderbilt’s non-discrimination policy.