Baptist Group to Remain at Vanderbilt Despite 'All-Comers' Policy

Baptist Collegiate Ministry of Vanderbilt University has decided to remain a registered student organization on campus, even with the "All-Comers" policy Vanderbilt has decided to implement among religious groups.

Thom Thornton, director of Vanderbilt BCM, explained to Baptist Press that his group has "been assured by the university that we can select leaders committed to the organization's mission."

In November 2010, Vanderbilt University began to implement rules which mandated that religious organizations allow all students to run for leadership positions, even if the students did not agree with the spiritual aims of the group.

"We appreciate the value of religious organizations for our students. A few of our religious organizations maintain that their beliefs prevent them from complying with Vanderbilt's nondiscrimination policy," read a statement from Vanderbilt.

"We believe all members of a registered student organization should be eligible to compete for leadership positions, but it is up to each student organization to select its own leaders."

Controversy and tension resulted as many religious organizations, especially Christian ones, considered the new rules to be an affront to religious freedom. In February, university officials held a town hall meeting to detail how the new rules applied to religious groups. The meeting included statements denouncing and supporting the new rules, as well as some walkouts.

A couple weeks ago, Vanderbilt Catholic decided to not renew its official status with the university, as it saw having a Catholic leadership as being fundamental to its mission.

Last week, 11 Christian student organizations joined together to form "Vanderbilt Solidarity," issuing a statement maintaining their opposition to the "All-Comers" policy.

"Each of our eleven organizations is a faith-based group dedicated to sharing the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on campus. As such, we simply cannot allow those who do not share our faith to lead our ministries, as Vanderbilt now demands," read the statement.

"We urge Vanderbilt to respect our religious freedom, which-as Congress and the Supreme Court have repeatedly emphasized-protects our right to select leaders and members who agree with our respective faith traditions."

The organizations comprising Vanderbilt Solidarity are Asian American Christian Fellowship, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cru, Medical Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Graduate Christian Fellowship, Bridges International, Lutheran Student Fellowship, Every Nation Ministries, Beta Upsilon Chi, and Christian Legal Society.

In addition to BCM, Vanderbilt officials state that over 30 religious student organizations have agreed to operate on campus under the "All-Comers" policy.

Baptist Collegiate Ministries of Vanderbilt University did not return comment by press time.

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