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Christian Legal Society

In today’s Washington Post, George F. Will writes on the controversy at Vanderbilt University between the administration and some Christian groups on campus:

Illustrating an intellectual confusion common on campuses, Vanderbilt University says: To ensure “diversity of thought and opinion” we require certain student groups, including five religious ones, to conform to the university’s policy that forbids the groups from protecting their characteristics that contribute to diversity.

Last year, after a Christian fraternity allegedly expelled a gay undergraduate because of his sexual practices, Vanderbilt redoubled its efforts to make the more than 300 student organizations comply with its “long-standing nondiscrimination policy.” That policy, says a university official, does not allow the Christian Legal Society “to preclude someone from a leadership position based on religious belief.” So an organization formed to express religious beliefs, including the belief that homosexual activity is biblically forbidden, is itself effectively forbidden.

Fix contributor Kyle Blaine first broke the story about the Christian groups on provisional status, and later appeared on a Fox News segment on the subject.

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Four student religious organizations at Vanderbilt University may be in jeopardy following a review by the school’s administration that takes issue with the groups requiring their leaders share the groups’ core religious beliefs.

The Christian groups in question — Graduate Christian Fellowship, Christian Legal Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Sigma Phi Lamda — were placed on provisional status in April after the Office of the Dean of Students concluded that the organizations were not in compliance with the university’s nondiscrimination policy.

The noncompliance issue is the same for the four groups. Each group’s constitution contains a clause which restricts leadership positions to individuals who share the group’s core religious beliefs. The university is in the process of determining whether these clauses violate the school’s nondiscrimination policy; until a determination is made, the groups will retain provisional status.

Associate Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Assessment Patricia Helland confirmed the university initially told the four religious organizations to remove provisions from their constitutions that restricted leadership positions, but has now backed away from the position following feedback from those organizations.

“People have come back to us and said ‘what do you mean? This is faith based. This is our values. If we change that, we are not who we are’ and what we’ve done is we’ve listened,” Helland said. “We are looking at what all the issues are to make a decision.”

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