There are a number of differences between the college students of the 1960s and the college students of today. Perhaps none is more striking than the desire of the former to be free and the latter to be controlled by the university administration. A recent controversy at UNC-Chapel Hill shows just how upset students become when administrators tell them they are free to associate with whomever they choose.
The controversy began like so many controversies begin on college campuses. A homosexual student joined a group that did not share his views on homosexuality. When he was predictably removed from the group he launched a campus-wide controversy that required the intervention of the university administration in order to answer a fundamental constitutional question. In this case, the question was: Did a Christian group, Psalm 100, have a right to expel a homosexual because his views on homosexuality were deemed incompatible with the group’s stated beliefs?
The university is getting much undeserved credit for arriving at the right decision in saying the group was within its rights to expel the homosexual. The truth of the matter is that the university only got this one half right. The part they got wrong was their suggestion that the group would have been violating the student’s rights had they expelled him for his “sexual orientation” rather than his beliefs about sexual orientation. This is a dangerous position with implications few people have considered fully. It is an issue that cannot be avoided as institutions continue to substitute the word “orientation” for behavior – a sleight of hand that is both intentional and highly significant.
Imagine for a moment that a similar issue arose within another religious organization – this time a church located off campus. Imagine the specifics involved a youth leader who was living out of wedlock with his girlfriend. The church would be well within its rights if it determined that he should step down because his sexual behavior conflicted with the teachings of the church. Nor should such a right be limited to decisions involving church leadership. The church could just as well expel a member for having an open affair with the spouse of another church member. The behavior would be an affront to the teachings of the church and should be handled within the church. The fact that the church receives tax breaks would in no way invite the government into the conflict.