Throughout 2012, the War on Religion has made its way to America’s college campuses. Almost daily, it seems there are new stories emerging about religious freedom at universities across the nation. On Tuesday, TheBlaze reported on the Tufts University crackdown on a Christian club that requires its leaders to be believers. Similarly, Snow College in Ephraim, Utah, is making headlines after allegedly banning Christian students’ religious homecoming art and downgrading a faith club’s status.
According to the students, who have filed a lawsuit with help from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) over the matter, they were told by school officials that their signs were done “in poor taste.” The basis for such a notion was the fact that they included faith-based messaging and symbolism. FOX News’ Todd Starnes reports:
Alliance Defending Freedom said campus clubs were invited to “Paint the Town,” — decorating the windows of local businesses with the theme: “Then, Now and Forever.”
The Solid Rock club had received permission to paint two windows — one of a privately owned business and the other was a business selected by the school.
The group had already painted one window with a cross and the words: “The cross covers sin then, now and forever.” They were working on a second window when a college official ordered them to stop.
Barham said the students were scolded, threatened and then forced to wash away their display [The Salt Lake Tribune claims it was other students who washed it away, despite the Christian students having the shop owner’s approval].
But the homecoming decorations are only a portion of the drama raging between the Solid Rock Christian Club and Snow College. Christian students are also claiming that the school downgraded the club to “second tier” status, which — much like the situation the club at Tufts is facing — would mean that members can no longer reserve rooms and advertise campus events. Additionally, they would not be allowed to receive monies from student fees, as other clubs do.
“By refusing to treat faith-based student organizations the same as other student groups and by excluding religious speech from homecoming events, Snow College officials have ignored this basic principle,” said Travis Barham, staff counsel for ADF. “But we hope they will quickly do the right thing, respect our clients’ freedoms, and eliminate the need for continuing to pursue this lawsuit.”
Scott Wyatt, president of Snow College, explained that the decision to downgrade the club may have emerged from a university audit. The individual conducting the investigation purportedly found that the college was in violation of the state’s constitution by offering funding to a campus religious group.
Eventually, though, it was determined that supporting faith-based clubs is not a violation — something that Wyatt said may not have been communicated to all of the clubs. After admitting that the university “undid” the “second tier” statuses, he said that the issue may merely be a “misunderstanding.”
“The Solid Rock ministry is a very important organization for us,” Wyatt told The Salt Lake Tribune. “They serve a number of students and we value them highly and want to continue to be a support in every way we can of their mission and their goals.”
Snow and Tufts aren’t the only campus communities battling over Christian student groups’ rights. As TheBlaze reported earlier this month, Yale is facing a similar issue after the Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) fraternity came under fire for requiring its members to embrace Christianity. And the non-discrimination policy issues at Vanderbilt University have been widely-reported as well.
(H/T: Todd Starnes)