Clashes between Christian clubs and college campuses have been heating up across the country, with numerous schools telling evangelical groups that they cannot require their members and leaders be believers. The latest debate is erupting at the University of Michigan, where the college is being accused of booting an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter off campus for requiring its leaders to be Christians.
According to Greg Jao, InterVarsity's field director, the university gave the Asian chapter of the group two options -- either reverse its constitution to be in compliance or leave campus. The problem apparently began last December when group members were brought before officials to discuss a problematic part of the Asian InterVarsity group's constitution. The document required club leaders to sign a statement affirming their Christian faith -- something the university said was a violation of its non-discrimination policy.
Asian InterVarsity club at the University of Michigan (Photo Credit: Asian InterVarsity/Todd Starnes)
While students were given an option to submit a new constitution that complied with these rules, they decided to refrain from doing so and to stick with their values. From a practical standpoint, it is understandable why a faith-based club would want its leaders to share theological values, something that a statement of faith would ensure.
"The university is sending the message that religious voices are suspect and should be marginalized," Jao told Fox News' Todd Starnes. "I think it sends the message that the university does not understand the nature of religious beliefs and the convictions of religious students."
As a result of its decision to stick to its convictions, the Asian InterVarsity group was de-recognized by the school and forced to relocate off-campus. Jao noted that this isn't just a Christian problem, as other faiths will also be impacted.
"I can’t imagine the Muslim Student Association saying you don’t have to be a Muslim to help lead our group," he noted. "I think the university’s decision will impact any religious group that’s being honest about their leadership criteria."
Asian InterVarsity students during praise and worship (Photo Credit: Asian InterVarsity/Todd Starnes)
When a University of Michigan spokesperson was contacted by Fox News' Todd Starnes, a statement was released noting that all registered student groups are required to agree to and sign a standard non-discrimination agreement. Additionally, club constitutions must be reviewed. The response also noted that the Asian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has not complied with these mandates, but did not get into specifics about the debate between the two parties.
The club plans to use the university's appeals process to overturn the decision. For now, students are meeting in an alternative location.
This is yet another example of a club embroiled in a battle with a prominent university over a non-discrimination policy. Vanderbilt University, Yale and Tufts, among others, have had similar faith-based wars over the same subject.
(H/T: Fox News' Todd Starnes)
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