The Center for Law & Religious Freedom

April 20, 2012 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Kim Colby, (703) 894-1087
kcolby@clsnet.org

 

Vanderbilt to Christian student organization:
Drop commitment to Jesus Christ for leaders

 

NASHVILLE — The Vanderbilt University administration has instructed a Christian student group that it will lose its recognized status on campus unless the group removes its requirement that its leaders have a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ.”

The development is only the latest in the ongoing controversy over Vanderbilt’s new policy, which forbids religious groups to require their own leaders to share their faith. In an e-mail Tuesday from the administration to an already recognized student group, the university stated that the Christian group’s application to keep its recognition was deficient because the group’s constitution states the following:

Criteria for officer selection will include level and quality of past involvement, personal commitment to Jesus Christ, commitment to the organization, and demonstrated leadership ability.

In order to retain recognition, the group was told it must eliminate the requirement that leaders have a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ.” The university dictated that the following sentence be substituted instead:

Criteria for officer selection will include level and quality of past involvement, commitment to the organization, and demonstrated leadership ability.

On Jan. 31 of this semester, the group’s student co-president and its faculty advisor met with the head of the university’s Office of Religious Life and an associate dean of students.  The university administrators assured the group that its constitution was fine and complied with the university’s policy. For that reason, the student group felt blindsided this week by the administration’s denial of recognition, despite the administrator’s apology to the group.

By mandating the elimination of a Christian group’s standard of “personal commitment to Jesus Christ,” Vanderbilt requires students to abandon their religious integrity and undermines their religious freedoms. Leadership is crucial to the direction of any organization. Eliminating the requirement of a commitment to Jesus Christ in leaders takes away the group’s ability to effectively fulfill its purpose and continue its ministry. By forcing religious groups to choose between remaining on campus and upholding their religious convictions, the university inhibits the development of a community based on freedom and inclusivity.

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