Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court made an enormous mistake in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez when it declared that public universities may deny recognition to student groups based on the latter’s refusal to knuckle under to academic orthodoxy. I said at the time that we’d soon see the bitter fruit of this mistake. Vanderbilt University, an erstwhile Methodist institution, is determined to make me look like a prophet. According to Fox News:
Is Vanderbilt University flirting with the suppression of religion? Yes, according to Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School.
Specifically, Swain is referring to four Christian student groups being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. Carried to its full extent, it means an atheist could lead a Christian group, a man a woman’s group, a Jew a Muslim group or vice versa.
If they remain in non-compliance, the student organizations risk being shut down.
Among the groups that is so threatened is–surprise!–the Christian Legal Society:
Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society. It ran afoul with this language from its constitution. “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.” CLS President Justin Gunter told me, “We come together to do things that Christians do together. Pray, and have Bible studies.”
To that, Rev. Gretchen Person – interim director of the Office of Religious Life at Vanderbilt – responded “Vanderbilt policies do not allow this expectation/qualification for officers.” Gunter has been negotiating with the university and has taken some language out of the CLS constitution – including the requirement that Student Coordinators “should strive to exemplify Christ-like qualities.” But he says he has to draw the line at the requirement regarding Bible studies, prayer and worship.
This is, to put it bluntly, insane, unless the Vanderbilt’s purpose is specifically to suppress any dissent from reigning academic orthodoxy. The CLS doesn’t mandate that one must be a Christian in order to be a member, take part in activities, or benefit from the group. Instead, it does when any organization, of whatever ideology, theology, purpose, or intent does–it requires that the individuals leading the group actually adhere to whatever is the underlying purpose of the group.
When the Rev. Person (ELCA, in case you’re wondering) is saying here, in essence, is that the CLS may not function as a Christian organization as long as it is connected in any way with Vanderbilt University. At that point, she may as well resign her position, because she is decreeing that the university has no need for, and no desire to in any way accommodate, religion on its campus, unless said religions give up any requirements for its leaders that might actually suggest that they are, you know, religious.
Vanderbilt officials refused to be interviewed [what a surprise–DSF], and instead released a statement saying in part “We are committed to making our campus a welcoming environment for all of our students.” In regard to the offending student organizations, officials said they “continue to work with them to achieve compliance.”
In fact, they are doing just the opposite. They are seeking to make the university a place where those who dissent from the reigning orthodoxy–above all, on the subject of homosexuality, but in truth for those who take their faith seriously–are outcasts, unwelcome to so much as express their doubts that the reigning orthodoxy is correct. That last phrase (“continue to work with them to achieve compliance.”) tells you all you need to know. The CLS and other religious organizations will bend the knee to Baal, or they will be cast out.
I hope the Supremes are happy with what they have wrought.