With its ongoing efforts to deny student religious groups the right to select their leaders according to their own beliefs, Vanderbilt University has raised serious questions about its commitment to religious liberty and freedom of association. This week the Tennessee state legislature issued a letter of warning, reminding Vanderbilt that the legislature has the right to regulate institutions that, like Vanderbilt, consume millions of dollars in public funds annually.
The university has decided that its religious organizations are subject to a so-called “all-comers” policy and must be open to non-Christian leadership. At the same time, it has exempted the university’s powerful Greek organizations — allowing the campus’s most discriminatory groups to exist unmolested…
Vanderbilt, like many large private universities, receives staggering amounts of public funds. At the same time, however, it believes that it should receive that funding as an entitlement — treating its students and the public however it wishes while feeding at the taxpayer trough…
Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
“We acknowledge that private institutions such as Vanderbilt University have the freedom to establish its associations and maintain the integrity of its institutional mission. As such, the University has the right to adopt and apply an “all-comers” policy for student organizations. But the state has a right not to subsidize any part of the operations of those organizations, like Vanderbilt University, that engage in unequal treatment of individuals and organizations, the effect of which is religious discrimination.”
At National Review Online, constitutional lawyer David French describes Vanderbilt University’s “strange war on ‘discrimination.’”
Like many universities before it, Vanderbilt is trying to open Christian student groups to leadership by non-Christians, and they’re doing so in the name of “nondiscrimination” and even “civil rights” — explicitly comparing Christian groups to segregationists.
The reality, of course, is that Vanderbilt is trying to force the orthodox Christian viewpoint off campus. The “nondiscrimination” rhetoric is mere subterfuge. How can we know this? Because even as it works mightily to make sure that atheists can run Christian organizations, it is working just as mightily to protect the place and prerogatives of Vanderbilt’s powerful fraternities and sororities — organizations that explicitly discriminate, have never been open to “all comers,” and cause more real heartache each semester for rejected students than any religious organization has ever inflicted in its entire history on campus. Vanderbilt’s embattled religious organizations welcome all students with open arms; Vanderbilt’s fraternities and sororities routinely reject their fellow students based on little more than appearance, family heritage, or personality quirks.
But where are the brave warriors for inclusiveness in the face of the annual Greek-dominated festival of exclusion called “rushing” and “pledging”? Nowhere to be found, of course…
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.
Twenty-three members of Congress earlier this month wrote to Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos, urging him to allow religious groups to freely choose their leaders.
The Congressional Prayer Caucus, which includes Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), sent the letter on Oct. 6 in reference to several student religious groups placed on provisional status for requiring their leaders to share the groups’ core religious beliefs.
“Religious student groups form around specific beliefs, and provide an opportunity for like-minded individuals to assemble to study the tenets of their faith and engage in activities that enrich their religious experiences,” the letter reads. “It follows, then, that religious groups must be allowed to select leaders that share the group’s core religious beliefs in order to maintain their religious identities and carry out their primary functions. Selecting leaders that best represent a student organization’s mission is not discrimination; it is common sense.”
The Vanderbilt Hustler reached out to a university official this afternoon for comment on the letter but has not yet received a response.
Michael Moore spoke last night at Vandy, and as soon as we posted about that, video of his singing the Star Spangled Banner immediately appeared online. Moore said that he sang the song with a sad tone because, “bad things are being done in our name.”
It’s not quite Christina Aguilera at the Super Bowl, but Moore does sing “What so proudly we hailed in the twilight’s last gleaming” when it should be “at the twilight’s last gleaming.”
Michael Moore told a sold out audience at Vanderbilt University Tuesday night to “occupy everything” in order to restore democracy in an America he characterized as dominated by corporate greed and corruption.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker and author made headlines in recent weeks by lending his support and celebrity status to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Moore said, in his mind, Wall Street’s actions leading up to the financial crisis of 2008 were criminal and called for arrests to be made.
“These Occupy protests are the most important movements happening in this country,” Moore said. “Occupy Nashville, occupy Memphis, occupy everything to get democracy back.”
The movement, now in its third week, has spread to several cities across the U.S. and is expected to start Thursday in Nashville.
In his two-hour long talk, Moore placed blame on wealthy Americans for capitalism’s failure in the 21st century, going as far as using a Russian accent to characterize “the rich” in America as Soviet-era communists.
“(The rich) hate the free market,” Moore said. “Their nirvana is no competition, no choice for the consumer.”