Vanderbilt University has reached the point of telling leaders of a Christian organization that they can’t tell their leaders to lead the very activities Christians engage in - like having Bible studies and prayer meetings. Why on earth would they strip their students of core religious liberty? Get ready for the quote from the Vanderbilt administration: "We are committed to making our campus a welcoming environment for all of our students."
Well that explains everything. Letting Christian leaders lead Bible studies and prayer meetings would send a chilling effect across the entire campus. I mean, Vanderbilt is in Nashville, of all places. It’s a Mecca of secularism!
To make matters worse, CLS already allows group membership to be extended to anyone – even the gay dude who launched an investigation into hundreds of organizations because one of them wounded his inner child by withholding his daily affirmations. But CLS is still doing something unthinkable by actually holding its leaders to a different standard. And Vanderbilt has a problem with that requirement. They simply will not allow any group to have any core beliefs about anything even if the belief requirement is extended only to its officers.
Enter the Vanderbilt Honor Code. Vanderbilt requires its students to sign an honor code that says each student will conform to a certain set of behaviors in deference to a certain set of beliefs. In other words, Vanderbilt students are expected to hold a certain set of shared values. If they do not agree to accept those values, they are not welcomed into the Vanderbilt community.
Vanderbilt also has an honor council, which is responsible for enforcement of the honor code. A cursory examination of the application for membership on this council shows that it not only requires that its member share certain core beliefs but that its members are expected to play a leadership role in enforcing set standards predicated upon those set moral principles. Official university materials make it clear that leaders of the council are held to different (higher) standards of moral conduct.
Indeed, Vanderbilt administrators know that no group can survive without shared values.
Diversity does not hold people together. Commonality does. Vanderbilt’s administration is also well aware of the problems CLS experienced at Washburn University Law School. In that case, a student whose religious beliefs were contrary to the group was allowed to lead a Bible study. When CLS stopped him he complained. Washburn put CLS on “provisional status,” but reinstated the group after CLS sued.
It is worth noting that the 2010 Supreme Court case of CLS v. Martinez has absolutely nothing to do with the situation at Vanderbilt. Because Vanderbilt is a private university none of the First Amendment cases are on point. Besides, Martinez simply held that schools, which already had “all-comers” policies, could prevent Christian groups from imposing belief requirements. That did not mean they were compelled to do so.
Indeed, the Vanderbilt situation is unique. Here, the administration is stripping students of religious liberty for one reason and one reason only. It is the same reason a dog licks himself: Because he can.
The metaphor may be crude. But so is the raw display of authoritarianism at Vanderbilt University. Decent people can only turn their heads away from this ugly episode in the annals of self-righteous liberal hypocrisy. Educated donors should turn away from Vanderbilt altogether.
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