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Campus Crackdown on Religious Freedom

Welcoming different viewpoints and beliefs is said to be one of the crowning glories of the modern university. Unless of course, your viewpoints and beliefs happen to be Christian.

Sadly, back in 2010, the Supreme Court laid the groundwork for a disturbing trend that is spreading to campuses nationwide. In the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, little noted at the time, the high court ruled that a public college may refuse to recognize a student organization if it restricts membership or leadership to students who share the group’s core beliefs.

In other words, campus student organizations like InterVarsity or Campus Crusade now run the risk of being kicked off campus if they say that only Christian students may hold leadership positions. The Court ruling says, in effect, that Christian groups must allow people who hold non-Christian beliefs into leadership ranks.

Friends, that makes no sense. It’s like forcing campus atheists to make Billy Graham their president! Of course we would welcome nonbelievers to hear the gospel, but they can’t run our groups!

Be that as it may, that’s where the law now stands — and the campus secularists know it. We’re already seeing them attempt to restrict religious freedom at several schools, of all places, in the Bible Belt.

Vanderbilt University’s administration in Nashville has a policy forbidding campus religious groups from making sure that student leaders share the groups’ core beliefs. Vanderbilt’s InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship is in the thick of the battle there.

At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the administration has launched a task force to explore ending the right of religious groups to exclude nonbelievers.

And now, UNC-Greenville is denying recognition to student groups that restrict their members and leaders to a set of religious beliefs. But it’s targeting only those not affiliated with a church, saying they are not really religious. That’s a neat trick — take away religious freedom by saying it doesn’t apply to a nondenominational group.

Thus, UNC-Greenville is moving from a broad freedom of religion to a much more restrictive “freedom of church” — much like the phrase “freedom of worship,” which this administration has embraced, which I’ve been warning you about for months. In the words of my colleague Tom Gilson over at The Point blog, this freedom of church is merely the “freedom to practice religion in a defined, confined, private space.” And as Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco rightly points out, “Saying that a Christian club isn’t religious is flatly absurd.”

Back in 2003, Harvard University similarly was accusing the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship of violating the university’s nondiscrimination policy. The late Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, an open homosexual who taught Christian morals, spoke out. Harvard’s policy, Gomes said, “is not tolerant, neither is it pluralistic, nor inclusive. Let us call it what it is: hostile, rampantly secular and overtly anti-Christian.” Well happily, Harvard backed down.

Gomes was right then, and, unfortunately, even more right now — especially in times like these, when religious freedom is being restricted on all fronts.

Let me ask you: Do you know whether this anti-Christian bigotry has spread to the university you attended, or where your kids go grandkids go? It’s time you find out and speak out.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media and print.

Publication dateMarch 15, 2012

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