The ruckus over Vanderbilt University's non-discrimination policy and regulations that require campus Christian groups (among others) to allow non-believers to serve in leadership roles continues. This week, Vanderbilt Catholic, one of the largest faith clubs at the school, has announced that it will not comply with the newly-enforced rules.
The Catholic group's decision will mean that, as of the end of the year, it will no longer be an official university group. Instead, it will serve as an off-campus ministry. The Rev. John Sims Baker, a chaplain at Vanderbilt Catholic, said on Tuesday that the group has been forced to make the rash decision to leave campus. It is the first Vanderbilt group to make such an announcement.
The Tennessean has a recap of the events, as they have unfolded surrounding the debate:
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 main argument surrounds an "all-comers" policy, which means that all students should be allowed to be members of campus groups. Additionally, every individual, regardless of belief, should -- according to Vanderbilt policy -- have the opportunity to run for office.
While faith groups embrace the first portion of the rule, it is this second notion -- that anyone can be a leader -- that is drawing the ire of student-run organizations like Vanderbilt Catholic.
"The discriminatory non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt University has forced our hand," Baker said in a statement. "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?"
On the club's official web site an announcement reads, "Vanderbilt Catholic Will NOT Comply with University Mandate." According to the statement, student clubs are being forced to re-register in April, as they will be asked to affirm their allegiance to the non-discrimination policy. Rather than complying as an official portion of campus life, the club will "reorganize."
"We are going to open our doors wider in order to make a greater effort to reach out to all Vanderbilt students and all college students in Nashville," the proclamation reads.
In an e-mailed statement to the Tennessean, Vice Chancellor Beth Fortune said the school is aware of the club's decision. While she explained that she and other administrators "regret, but respect" their choice, Fortune believes that most clubs will have no problem complying with the non-discrimination policy.
Watch coverage of this subject on GBTV, below:
"We believe...that the vast majority of our more than 400 registered student organizations easily will comply with the policy," Fortune wrote.
While Fortune is confident regarding this matter, others aren't so sure that the rules make sense. First and foremost, the regulation would require Christian groups to allow non-Christians to lead Bible studies (pending elections). In turn, it would essentially force gay rights groups to embrace leaders who disagree fervently with gay marriage and other ideals. In the end, the leadership portion of the non-discrimination continues to be the most controversial.
(H/T: The Tennessean)