Fla. College's Bible Studies Ban at Common Space Not About Religion, Says Campus Official

An official at a Florida academic institution garnering controversy over shutting down a Bible study at a residential hall's commons area has stated that the issue is not about religious freedom.

Recently, the Rollins College of Winter Park chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was stopped from holding Bible studies at a commons area in a student dormitory.

Lauren H. Bradley, Public Affairs director at the Office of Marketing & Communications for Rollins, told The Christian Post that the incident had to do with an equally enforced campus policy.

"The students met in a common space in a residence hall. These public spaces are intended for informal use by those residents, and, therefore, are not to be booked for regular weekly meetings by student organizations," said Bradley.

"The policy in question was the regular use of space, not the nature of the gathering. A similar request from a fraternity that does not have its own designated hall was declined for the same reason."

Bradley also told CP that IVCF was recently de-recognized by Rollins over not agreeing to adhere to the college's anti-discrimination policy pertaining to student membership.

"We require all student organizations to accept this policy as a condition of Rollins' support, meaning, if they do not accept the policy they cannot use the Rollins name, receive funding, recruit on campus or utilize emails lists or other campus promotions," said Bradley.

"This is not an issue of religious freedom, it is an issue of an organization upholding a college policy. We are concerned about reports stating we are not allowing Christians to be the head of Christian groups. This is false. A Christian can be the head of any group."

Gregory L. Jao, National Field director for the Northeast Cluster of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, told The Christian Post about the incident that occurred in late January.

"A student leader of InterVarsity was asked to leave Ward Hall while he was meeting with Ward Hall residents (at their invitation) to lead a Bible study in a dorm lounge," said Jao.

"The residence assistant informed the student leader that he was no longer allowed in Ward Hall to lead Bible studies even with the express invitation of students in the dorm."

According to Jao (pronounced "HOW"), while the incident occurred in January IVCF is still seeking to get the right to organize on campus even though they are no longer recognized by Rollins.

"We're intending to get clarity from the administration while pointing out that as an unrecognized organization, we have the freedom to help students self-organize in the same way that any non-campus church, synagogue or mosque might have," said Jao.

"…1) we can meet in individual student rooms, 2) we can meet outside of dorms at the benches/tables that are around the building, 3) we can meet elsewhere on campus … that isn't a dorm. However, the director of ResLife did say that Student Affairs would need to agree to these provisions."

The Bible study incident comes at a time when InterVarsity is submitting statements to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights regarding the wave of anti-discrimination policies at college campuses that prohibit religious clubs from using religious criteria in leadership selection.