Sad but true. Details:
One of the largest student religious groups at Vanderbilt [University] will be leaving campus at the end of the year in a dispute over the university’s nondiscrimination policy.
That policy bars student groups from requiring their leaders to hold specific religious beliefs.
Leaders of Vanderbilt Catholic said that rule makes no sense. They won’t comply and instead will become an independent, off-campus ministry.
“The discriminatory non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt University has forced our hand,” the Rev. John Sims Baker, chaplain of Vanderbilt Catholic, said in a statement Tuesday. He added: “Our purpose has always been to share the Gospel and proudly to proclaim our Catholic faith. What other reason could there be for a Catholic organization at Vanderbilt?”
Beth Fortune, vice chancellor for public affairs at Vanderbilt, said the school values religious groups on campus and was aware of the Vanderbilt Catholic decision.
“We regret, but respect, their decision,” Fortune said in an emailed statement. “We believe, though, that the vast majority of our more than 400 registered student organizations easily will comply with the policy.”
The dispute between Vanderbilt and religious groups began after a Christian fraternity expelled a gay member. That led the school to review the constitutions of all registered student groups to make sure they comply with the nondiscrimination policy.
Last fall, four religious groups at Vanderbilt were put on provisional status for violating the policy. Over the past year, the school and the groups have been trying to work out a compromise.
The university published a written version of its policy as well as new guidelines for registered student groups in early March.
The sticking point is over student leaders. The university says it has an “all-comers” policy — meaning that groups must be open to all students and that every student should be allowed to run for office.
Religious groups such as Vanderbilt Catholic say any student can be a member. But leaders, they say, must uphold certain religious beliefs.