Christian groups aren’t allowed to require Christianity

Vanderbilt’s ruling that campus Christian groups may not require their leaders to be Christians would seem to violate every canon of reason, let alone the freedom of religion.   This happened awhile ago, but I noticed something about the story.  Consider this account:

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.

So what’s behind this? Flashback to last fall. An openly gay undergrad at Vanderbilt complained he was kicked out of a Christian fraternity. The university wouldn’t identify the fraternity, but campus newspaper the “Hustler” reported it was Beta Upsilon Chi. As a result, the school took a look at the constitutions of some 300 student groups and found about a dozen, including five religious groups to be in non-compliance with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy. All were placed on provisional status.

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.

He told me, “At the point where they’re saying we can’t have Bible studies and prayer meetings as part of our constitution – if we go beyond that – we’re compromising the very identity of who we are as Christians and the very thing we believe as religious individuals.”

Vanderbilt officials refused to be interviewed, 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.”

via Professor Says Vanderbilt Suppressing Christian Student Groups Amid Shutdown Threats | Fox News.

So is Vanderbilt opposed to religion?  Not really.  It’s a Methodist-related school.   It has an Office of Religious Life.  And the person laying down the hammer on these Christian organizations is the director of that office, a minister, the Rev. Gretchen Person.  In other words, this  suppression of religion in the name of tolerance is being perpetrated not by atheists but by liberal Protestants!

Religious groups may hire on basis of religion

The Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from former employees of the Christian relief organization World Vision who lost their jobs because they no longer believed in the organization’s statement of faith.  This means that Christian organizations are not violating discrimination laws when they hire only Christians.

The U.S. Supreme Court let a lower court decision stand Monday that Federal Way-based nonprofit World Vision can hire only Christians to work in its U.S. operations.

The largest nonprofit in the state has the right to hire or dismiss employees based on their religious affiliation, the court ruled by allowing the lower court decision to stand.

The four-year court fight was initiated by three former World Vision employees who were fired because they didn’t agree with World Vision’s U.S. statement of faith, which World Vision says is a condition of employment.

In August, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that World Vision could legally discriminate in hiring based on religious affiliation. The court, upholding a lower court ruling on a discrimination suit, said World Vision qualifies as a faith-based humanitarian organization and is exempt from the Civil Rights Act. The U.S. Supreme Court Monday affirmed that appeals court decision by refusing to hear the case.

via Supreme Court: World Vision can hire only Christians – Puget Sound Business Journal.

In a related issue, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on Wednesday on the case involving an LCMS school that fired a called teacher for her health problems.   At issue is  whether a church body can designate a called teacher a “minister,” even though she teaches non-religious subjects, and so invoke the  “ministerial exemption” from disability and other anti-discrimination laws.

A new definition of religious discrimination

The University of California-Davis has a new religious discrimination policy, according to which ONLY Christians can be accused of discriminating against other religions, and discrimination AGAINST Christians does not count:

The UC-Davis policy defines “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” as “the loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”

“Christians deserve the same protections against religious discrimination as any other students on a public university campus,” says Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) Senior Counsel David French. “It’s ridiculously absurd to single out Christians as oppressors and non-Christians as the only oppressed people on campus when the facts show that public universities are more hostile to Christians than anyone else.”

A from ADF-allied attorney Tim Swickard to UC-Davis explains, “It is patently clear that UC Davis’s definition of religious discrimination is blatantly unconstitutional under both the Federal and California State Constitutions. The policy singles out some faiths for official school protection while denying the same protection to others solely on the basis of their particular religious views…Moreover, the UC-Davis policy is simply nonsensical given the environment on most University campuses where Christian students, if anything, are among the most likely to be subjected to discrimination because of their faith.”

The letter cites a recent study of more than 1,200 faculty at public universities that showed that professors admitted to having a significant bias against Christian students, particularly evangelicals. Fifty-three percent admitted to having negative feelings about evangelical students solely because of their religious beliefs.

via UC-Davis Students Object to Religious Discrimination Policy.

This is a good example of what postmodernism–note the jargon: “privilege, power, dominant culture, institutionalized oppression”–can do to civil and legal rights.   Opposing religious discrimination as a way to discriminate against religion.

UPDATE: The university has now rescinded the definition and taken it off its website. HT: Steve Billingsley

HT:  Jackie

“Something close to a creationist” and “potentially evangelical”

A professor passed over for a job because he questioned evolution sued for religious discrimination.  The university has settled:

The University of Kentucky will pay $125,000 to an astronomy professor who sued the school for religious discrimination.

A motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Lexington said that both UK and C. Martin Gaskell, a research fellow at the University of Texas-Austin, now want the lawsuit thrown out. It had been scheduled to go to trial on Feb. 8.

The lawsuit had provided fodder for Internet news and blog sites discussing religious faith versus academic reasoning.

Gaskell claimed that he was passed over for a job as director of UK’s MacAdam Student Observatory three years ago because of his religion and statements that were perceived to be critical of evolution. He was being represented in the case by attorneys from the American Center for Law and Justice.

Gaskell was a top candidate for the job, according to court filings, but some UK professors called him “something close to a creationist” and “potentially evangelical” in department e-mail messages.

via UK settles religious-discrimination suit for $125,000 | Education | Kentucky.com.

I suspect Prof. Gaskell maintains his beliefs are scientific rather than religious, but surely the University was discriminating against him on the grounds of religion.  The very possibility that he was “potentially evangelical”  was enough for the school to blackball him.

HT:  Kirk

Court rules religious groups can consider religion in hiring

The Ninth Circuit Court, a rather unpredictable group, has ruled in favor of the Christian relief organization World Vision, allowing religious organizations to hire only employees who are in accord with that religion.  From Christianity Today:

In most cases, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits private employers from hiring and firing based on religious beliefs. But a 1972 congressional amendment established that churches and religious associations could use faith-based criteria in hiring.

The Ninth Circuit ruling affirmed that an organization can fulfill a religious purpose without confining itself to worship-like activities, Carlson-Thies said. “An organization can be humanitarian and religious at the same time,” he said of the message sent.

As Ninth Circuit Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain put it in his majority opinion, “World Vision is a nonprofit organization whose humanitarian relief efforts flow from a profound sense of religious mission.”

But journalist Bobby Ross points out that the issue is not entirely settled.

HT: Sarah Pulliam Bailey


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