Welcome to college, where religious freedom goes to die

by Charles C. Haynes

In the Orwellian world of many college and university campuses, all faiths are welcome — but some faiths are more welcome than others.

Just this month, for example, California State University (CSU) “derecognized” InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical student organization with more than 900 chapters at colleges and universities across the country.

In plain English, this means InterVarsity will no longer be a recognized student club at any of the 23 schools in the CSU system.

InterVarsity can still meet on campus — but minus the benefits accorded recognized student organizations, including access to meeting rooms and official university events.

Not only will InterVarsity now have a difficult time reaching students, an InterVarsity spokesman estimates that losing these benefits will cost each chapter up to $20,000 annually.

De-recognition of conservative religious groups is happening at many other schools, an exclusionary process that is affecting student organizations representing evangelicals, Mormons, Catholics and others.

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Why are colleges and universities — places of higher learning supposedly committed to the free exchange of ideas and beliefs — withdrawing recognition from these groups?

For one simple reason: InterVarsity and other conservative religious clubs require student officers to affirm the faith of the group they lead.

College and university officials argue that their non-discrimination policies prohibit student organizations from imposing a faith-based requirement for leadership. Any student must be eligible to lead any group — whatever his or her beliefs.

In other words, in what can only be described as Newspeak, many universities now define “non-discrimination” as requiring discrimination against conservative religious groups.

But aren’t policies barring student clubs from imposing faith-based eligibility criteria for leadership unconstitutional violations of religious liberty and freedom of association — at least at public universities where the First Amendment applies?

Not according to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, a deeply divided court held in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez that so-called “all comers” policies are constitutional. As a result, public colleges and universities are now free to require all student clubs to allow any student to be eligible for leadership of the group…


Welcome to college, where religious freedom goes to die