Intervarsity and the Closing of the California Mind

Travis Weber
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Posted: Sep 21, 2014 12:01 AM
Intervarsity and the Closing of the California Mind

The news cycle has become almost boringly predictable: a public figure will make (or be discovered to have made) a statement supporting natural marriage. It will then quickly be reported by every major news outlet.. In today’s media environment, it is virtually impossible publicly to support traditional morality and not receive condemnation. Even asking for religious exemptions and suggesting people have different views will cause one to be shunned by cultural elites.

Yet even someone dulled by this type of routine condemnation should take notice of the California State University (CSU) system’s “de-recognition” of its 23 InterVarsity chapters for failing to abide by its new campus group leadership policy. What is additionally unusual is that at least on its face, this matter doesn’t even have as much to do with sexuality as with religion.

The CSU policy at issue states that “[n]o campus shall recognize any fraternity, sorority, living group, honor society, or other student organization that discriminates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.” CSU is applying this policy to leaders and not just members. Thus, InterVarsity chapters are now required to accept non-Christians as leaders. But InterVarsity’s doctrinal statement, while allowing anyone to attend its meetings, requires that student leaders be Christians and profess Christian beliefs. The two are obviously incompatible.

InterVarsity has recognized this, and has chosen to retain its integrity. As a consequence of abiding by its Christian beliefs, it no longer has formal recognition on any of CSU’s 23 campuses. This lack of official recognition by CSU means InterVarsity loses free access to meeting rooms and student activities programs (including the new student fairs where the group is able to meet most students), and also loses standing to engage faculty, students and administrators.

Yet CSU can’t even credibly claim to be “anti-discriminatory,” because its policy still permits exemptions for gender discrimination. CSU bylaws state “[t]he prohibition on membership policies that discriminate on the basis of gender does not apply to social fraternities or sororities or other university living groups.” In other words, it is acceptable to discriminate based on gender but not religious conviction. The hypocrisy and arbitrariness of this distinction is astonishing.

Where is the outrage? It’s not found in the main currents of our media. A search on the Google news page for “InterVarsity”produces just several links to recognizable news sources, but nowhere near the blanket coverage given to nearly every new decision announcing the redefinition of marriage. Meanwhile, immensely important developments like celebrities taking selfies while doing the ice-bucket challenge merit a story in Time.

Actually, the news industry’s willingness to turn a blind eye to such souring developments in higher learning is the lesser problem. The greater problem is the effect this CSU policy will have on the very people it is training to be tomorrow’sleaders, and their appreciation for differences in values and opinions. Per the new policy, Muslim student groups will have to admit those who don’t respect their faith, and Jewish groups would have to permit a neo-Nazi to enter into their leadership. It’s baffling how such a policy could have been passed. Yet the policy would logically permit these scenarios, which anyone can see virtually destroy the very meaning of any private group. The Freedom of Association is not eroded here; it is rendered meaningless.

Yet CSU apparently wants its students graduating with a view of the world in which differences of belief are essentially worthless. At least for the CSU system, this policy virtually discards any remaining shred of classical civil liberties which have served for centuries as the foundation for the civilizations of Europe and the Americas. How such students will be prepared to lead in our multicultural world – where differences still do divide – sometimes quite sharply, is anyone’s guess.