There was a case going around concerning the all-comers policy at the University of Iowa. All-comers policies are policies that require organizations to open up their leadership to members of different races, sexes and religious preferences. They have generally been used to drive Christian groups off the campuses of colleges and universities (rarely are they enforced against non-Christian groups). As such, the policy was being used to pressure a Christian organization. However an injunction has been put on the university as it concerns using this policy to that end. The text of the ruling is here for those who want to see the details of this case.
If you do not want to read it all, then let me give you the punch line. The court showed basic support for the all-comers policy (and that disturbs me, but I will leave that for another day) but discovered that the policy was not being applied to a Muslim student organization. With that discovery, the court decided that the Christian student organization would probably win the case since they can show that the policy is being applied in a discriminatory manner.
So this is a victory for the Christian group. As an opponent of these all-comers policies, I am quite happy for this victory. But with this ruling comes two important lessons. One lesson for those on the left and one for those on the right.
For those on the left the lesson is this: Stop saying that Christianophobia is a myth. We have a clear case of university officials, exactly the type of highly educated progressives that we would expect to have Christianophobia, giving rights to a Muslim group that they would deny to a Christian group. How much clearer of an example of Christianophobia do you need? In this case these officials were so sloppy that they got caught and that is good. Unfortunately we know that there will be times when those officials are not caught, or able to hide their anti-Christian bigotry.
We are not naïve enough to believe that this is an isolated incident. There is already systematic evidence that academics are willing to discriminate against conservative Protestants. We know how individuals can find pretexts to hide their discriminatory actions. Does anyone really think that universities would push all-comers policies if it meant that women’s organizations had to seriously consider male leadership or a student BLM group was forced to allow whites to lead it? Of course not. We know the accusations of patriarchy and paternalism that would fill the air if such results were part of the all-comers polices. No these policies are here to try to force Christian groups off campuses. Stop gaslighting us and telling us that we are crazy when we talk about powerful highly educated individuals discriminating against conservative Christians.
I know that some people will argue that perhaps the University of Iowa official really did not try to discriminate against the Christians. Perhaps they merely overlooked the Muslim student group. Well if that is the case then we will soon find out. If they merely overlooked the Muslim student group, they can go to that group and force them to change their leadership requirements. If there is some inherit right for an atheist to be able to lead a Christian group, then that atheist should also be able to lead a Muslim group. Let’s see if the University of Iowa officials really believe that or if this is simply a ploy to get rid of the Christian group.
Do Christians sometimes exaggerate the issues they face? Yep. Some of them do just that. It is one of the reasons why I do not like it when Christians talk about being persecuted in the United States. But let’s not pretend that only Christian are guilty of this. Looking at the fake hate crimes that have been created by those complaining about racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia should give us some context for this argument. Do these fake crimes mean that racism, Islamophobia, and homophobia do not exist or that there are some unbalanced individuals who see themselves as victims when that is not the case? I opt for the latter explanation, and that explanation applies to some Christians as well. But their actions do not dismiss the importance of tackling Christianophobia.
Let’s acknowledge that Christianophobia is a problem. Do some research to see how big of a problem it really is. Then as we deal with Christianophobia it will be easier for me to convince Christians to deal with other types of intolerant behavior. Denying the reality of what so many Christians know is true, that Christianophobia exists and is a real problem, does not help you to convince them that other social problems need attention. You are convincing them that your approach to social problems comes from a partisan perspective.
For those on the right the lesson is this: Please take the problem of Islamophobia more seriously. Muslims are a part of our society, and they should be treated with equality to us Christians. I am speaking legally and not theologically. We are free to disagree with Muslims as much as we want. We can freely believe that Muhammed is a false prophet and argue our case in this society. But we are not free to treat Muslims as second class citizens. We are not free to look away when they are unfairly treated.
It troubles me when Christians try to stop Muslims from building their mosques. The attitude some have about allowing Muslims into our nation is also disturbing. Some Christians are seeking to end the immigration of all Muslims. I want our law enforcement to investigate potential terrorism with all the vigor it is necessary to root out terrorists. But, I do not want everyday Muslims treated with suspicion simply because they are Muslims. And I am tired of stories about hate crimes and violence against Muslims.
Look. Islamophobia is real. I would like conservatives to accept that it is real and need to be combatted. Fight back against unfair Islamophobic stereotypes like you fight back against unfair Christianophobic stereotypes. Make a place for our Muslim brothers and sisters in our society.
Now what does all of this have to do with the court decision? Imagine that some Christian group had years ago managed to remove the Muslim group from campus. The ability to reveal the hypocrisy of the University of Iowa officials would have been crippled. By making sure they have a place on campus, we help to make sure that Christians have a place on campus.
I have argued before that Christians help to insure our own religious freedom when we defend the religious freedom of Muslims. And now we have a clear-cut case where the presence of Muslims has been used to protect the religious rights of Christians. Protecting Muslims to protect ourselves does not seem like the most honorable reason to fight for the religious freedom of Muslims. Indeed there are solid moral and ethical reasons to support the religious freedom of Muslims. Simply endorsing the value of religious freedom should be enough of a motivation for us.
But if supporting the intrinsic value of religious freedom is not enough justification for some Christians to support the religious freedom of Muslims, perhaps self-preservation may do the trick. This court case illustrates how the presence of Muslims can serve to protect the freedom of Christians on college campuses. Helping Muslims to operate in our society just as any other religious group offers the possibility of that protection being extended to other areas of our society.
I guess my lesson for both the left and the right is this: protect religious freedom. Be especially careful to protect the religious freedom of those with whom you disagree. Debate them. Debate them loudly if you wish. But at the end of the day, do not seek to have them removed from your college campuses or your country. That religious freedom is one of the most foundational freedoms we enjoy in this country. It is much too precious for us to waste it on our partisan bickering.
So the University of Iowa officials have been caught in their religious bigotry. It is regrettable that they decided to act in such an anti-Christian manner. But we can gain from their loss if we use it to remind us of the intrinsic value of religious freedom. It can help motivate us to not only protect the religious freedom of those we like, but also those we do not like. Only when we protect the religious freedom of our ideological or religious opponents will we then indicate that we truly believe in religious freedom.
Update: It seems that the U of Iowa officials refuse to learn their lesson. Now some of them may have to dip into their personal finances because of their religious bigotry. I hate that it has to come down to that but you cannot mistreat others because you do not like their religious values. That is unAmerican to the extreme.