As college students hit their campuses and get back to class, many are facing an unprecedented attack on their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and free speech. Just as sure as atheists will sue to remove Nativity scenes at Christmastime, the new school year will no doubt bring many lawsuits on campuses across the country that seek to suppress viewpoints that the university administration holds to be contrary to their own.
Many would say that suing to remove something that represents exactly what Christmas stands for is absurd and it is no less ridiculous what is happening at universities across the country. Student groups are being forced to either disband or let anyone who wants to run their student groups do so – as in, a Christian student group would be forced to allow an atheist to be its president, the Republican group on campus would be forced to let a Democrat lead their organization, a pro-choice person leading the pro-life group, etc.
Some universities didn’t bother to wait until the new school year started to start enacting these policies.
At the nation’s largest university system, Cal State, the administration has already announced that they are preparing to withdraw official recognition of evangelical student groups because they supposedly discriminate against their leaders based on religion. Read that again. Evangelical groups, by their very definition, support a specific theology and doctrine of Christianity and strive to live out their faith in their daily lives based upon those beliefs. It’s not discrimination to demand that their leader actually be a Christian themselves.
At Vanderbilt University, several Christian groups have already been ceased to be recognized by the university because they also care about who their leaders are and want them to be professed Christians.
None of these campus groups discriminate against students who want to join their group. They welcome anyone who wants to come and see what they are all about. But when it comes to the people who lead the Christian groups, yes, they want them to agree with what the group stands for.
Vanderbilt’s policy in particular is troubling because they allow the religious groups to exist as long as they don’t stand for anything in particular. Because no one ever gave their lives up because they were Christians apparently.
Every year Christian and pro-life students – new and returning – walk onto college campuses and are faced head on with belief systems that radically differ from their own. They will be challenged, mocked and discriminated against because of what they believe. They need these Christian groups on campus to have a sense of fellowship and belonging amidst what is a very trying time.
The importance of a community on campus to support and encourage these students cannot be understated. Perhaps that is a reason for the vicious backlash of these universities against groups that have done nothing wrong except profess a belief system that is based on love, kindness, generosity and protection of the most vulnerable among us.
To these brave college students facing adversity from the minute they walk onto campus, don’t give up. There are many groups out there, including ours, who can and will help. This is worth fighting for.