Tough to understand Tufts evangelicals

The Boston Globe reported last week on an evangelical student group at Tufts University facing the potential loss of its funding:

In a collision between religious freedom and nondiscrimination codes, Tufts University is considering whether an evangelical Christian student group should be stripped of its official status for requiring that its leaders adhere to the faith, saying it violates school policies against religious discrimination.

An arm of the student government recently voted to withdraw recognition of the Tufts Christian Fellowship because its constitution requires that its leaders celebrate “the basic biblical truths of Christianity.”

That provision violates the nondiscrimination clause that governs student groups, student leaders said. The group has appealed the decision to a faculty committee. If the ruling is upheld, the group would lose its funding and permission to use the college’s name.

The ruling has drawn an angry reaction from religious and First Amendment groups and been panned as political correctness run amok.

It’s a mostly adequate story that seems to go out of its way to present both sides.

Nonetheless, I found myself wanting to know more about the evangelical students involved. Part of the problem seems to be that no one from the group was willing to talk, at least on the record:

A leader of the Tufts group, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid scrutiny from the news media and students, said the issue has broad ramifications for how religious groups can govern themselves.

“The question facing our campus is, ‘How do we handle religious groups? Is there a religious caveat?” the student asked. “We think it’s important to have clarity.”

For all the broad issues covered in the story, little details slip through the cracks. For example, how many students are involved in the group? How much funding does the group stand to lose? And how big a minority are evangelicals on this campus?

The Globe gives the impression that most students support yanking the group’s funding:

On campus, many students agreed with the decision to strip the group of its status. Sophia Laster, who belongs to a campus coalition against religious exclusion, said she believes some members of the Christian group believe homosexuality is morally wrong.

Be honest: Does anything about how that second sentence is phrased make anyone else chuckle?

The story ends this way:

Parker Heyl, another student, said the group should be punished if it violated the antidiscrimination policy. Heyl, a Catholic, belongs to Tufts Hillel, the college’s Jewish organization, because he likes its commitment to community service.

“The club didn’t even blink an eye when I said I was Christian,” Heyl said.

Image of Goddard Chapel at Tufts University via Shutterstock


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