October 29, 2012
Tufts University Suspends InterVarsity Chapter for Requiring Christian Leaders
(Updated) Meanwhile, Utah's Snow College says lawsuit by Christian club is "misunderstanding."
Update (April 18): The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Snow College has settled its lawsuit with Solid Rock Christian Club, which sued the school last winter claiming "that the school's policy unconstitutionally treated student groups affiliated with religious institutions differently than other student groups."
As part of the settlement, the school revised its tiered club status system that denied certain privileges to some groups based on tier status.
Update (Feb. 21): Following conflicts over the club status of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on university campuses, the Virginia state legislature approved a bill that would protect religious and political student organizations from discrimination by school officials.
The bill also states:
A religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization's internal affairs, selecting the organization's leaders and members, defining the organization's doctrines, and resolving the organization's disputes are in furtherance of the organization's religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities.
According to the Michigan Daily, "The University’s Asian InterVarsity chapter of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship...claimed Thursday that it was 'kicked off' campus because of religious qualifications for its student leaders."
A UM spokeswoman said the suspension occurred because the group did not file its re-registration papers by the appropriate deadline, not because of its leadership qualification requirements.
Two days later, UM reinstated IVCF as a recognized student organization, even after a meeting in which club leaders and university representatives disagreed about whether or not the group's constitution violates UM's non-discrimination policies.
After the student leaders of Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) declined to revise their leadership policies, the Boston-area research university's Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) revoked the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter's status as an officially recognized student organization.
The complaint against TCF originally arose last year, "when four students filed a complaint with the student judiciary that IVCF staff members wield undue influence over the student group and that both organizations conducted discriminatory practices."
TCUJ originally suspended TCF for its requirement that any student who wishes to hold a leadership position within TCF must affirm basic Christian beliefs. The student judiciary told TCF that those statements violated the student body constitution’s non-discrimination clause by excluding students who do not share these beliefs.
TCF was given the opportunity to adapt its constitution and move the belief-based leadership requirement into its mission statement, which is not legally binding. However, TCF declined, resulting in the final TCUJ decision on Oct. 18.
According to the Tufts Daily, judiciary chair Adam Sax said TCF will "lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life and request and receive funding."
The group is planning to appeal the TCUJ decision, Tufts Daily reported.
Meanwhile, Snow College in Utah is facing charges from its own Solid Rock Christian Club, which alleges that it unfairly received second-tier "affiliate" status as a student organization because of its religious affiliation.
However, Snow College president Scott Wyatt says the issue is a "misunderstanding."
The Salt Lake Tribute reports that Wyatt "said that after realizing the impact of the affiliate status on religious clubs, 'we undid this.' Wyatt, who said he just received a copy of the lawsuit and had not yet read it, said it is possible none of the clubs were aware of that course correction."