The State University of New York-Buffalo (SUNY Buffalo) is looking into allegations that a Christian campus group is in violation of school policy and the law by requiring its leaders to sign a faith-based statement.
This week’s investigation by a committee of the Student Association comes after sophomore Steven Jackson stepped down from a leadership position with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship over differing views on sexuality.
JoAnna Datz, president of the Student Association at SUNY Buffalo, told The Christian Post Wednesday that “the [investigative] committee has been meeting and collecting objective information, reviewing the Student Association Constitution, clubs documents, and just collecting information.”
She said there is a lot of information that the senators need to be educated on regarding what happened between Jackson and the club.
On Friday, the university’s newspaper, The Spectrum, reported on a letter sent to InterVarsity’s executive board informing the group of its suspension. It stated: "All peripheral privileges afforded to Student Association clubs are revoked for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship until further notice.”
Even though Jackson is involved in the controversy, he asked the senate to lift the suspension at a meeting last Sunday. The Spectrum reports that “SA Senator Travis Nemmer read a prepared statement from Jackson to those assembled in a Knox lecture hall for the meeting.”
"Had my [sexual] orientation not come up,” he stated, “I do not believe that this would be happening right now ... If [InterVarsity’s requirement to sign a faith-based agreement] is illegal, I do not blame Intervarsity. I blame the Student Association for failing to properly review club constitutions and inform clubs of their legality."
Jackson served as InterVarsity’s treasurer and is openly gay.
Datz told The Christian Post that when a club is formed at SUNY Buffalo their constitution is reviewed before they can become recognized. So originally InterVarsity’s constitution was approved. But if they made any changes since its inception, none of those have been reviewed by the SA. It wasn’t until last year, Datz said, that a rule was put in place that any changes to club constitutions must be reviewed.
The investigation committee will be looking over InterVarsity’s constitution. The campus group requires leaders to be in agreement with its doctrinal statement, purpose statement, and living a life of Christian integrity. Membership, however, is open to all.
The requirement that leaders sign a certain set of beliefs is at the heart of the controversy. Datz said this week they have also been debating the differences between membership and leadership in this particular case.
Jim Lundgren, director of Collegiate Ministries for Intervarsity, stressed to The Christian Post that the organization does not discriminate based on sexual orientation. In Jackson’s case, however, “he decided to pursue a sexually active homosexual relationship” and InterVarsity doesn’t affirm a sexually active relationship outside of marriage.
SA’s executive board is expected to make a decision this coming Sunday at their meeting.
If InterVarsity is found to be in violation of antidiscrimination policies, Datz said the senate could choose to derecognize them as a club, take away their funding or require that they change their constitution.