My friend Ted sent me an interesting story about accusations of discrimination and counter-discrimination at Vanderbilt University.
The hook on this story is that the head of one of four Christian groups on campus claims the school’s sudden clampdown on group constitutions means the suppression of religion.
As the story goes, it all began when a gay student was allegedly blocked from joining a fraternity. The accusation of discrimination in that case made the school take a closer look at the constitution of all groups.
The sticking point with at least one of the Christian groups is a requirement that officers of the Christian group must “lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.”
This, the school seems to believe, is discriminatory because student organizations cannot require that leaders of a group share the group’s beliefs, goals and values.
While I can respect Vanderbilt’s goal of not discriminating against anyone, I think it’s clear that they’re going too far in their efforts.
It would be discrimination if the rules said that anyone who wished to attend must subscribe to specific beliefs or must participate in dictated rituals. They don’t.
They say that leaders of the group must perform a certain additional level of Christian-based activities.
That’s not discrimination; it’s common sense.
No one would have a problem with the captain of a swim team being expected to know how to swim. They wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if officers of a debate team were expected to be able to lead a debate.
At most, the group’s constitution is putting in writing what its members and even those who aren’t members would expect, anyway: the higher up you go in any organization, the more expectations are placed on you, and the more you must be willing to accept and lead with the beliefs and strategies of the group.
If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t be an officer of the group. And you almost certainly wouldn’t, no matter what a group’s constitution says or doesn’t say.
Otherwise, that group could be infiltrated by those whose beliefs are different for the purpose of causing conflict. Before you dismiss that concern as outrageous conspiracy theory, it has happened before. The Christian Legal Society faced precisely that situation at Washburn University Law School, the article points out. A student with differing beliefs was allowed to lead a Bible study until that group stopped him. He complained, the school placed the group on “provisional status,” and the group sued.
The higher up you go in a group, the more they’ll expect of you. That’s what being a leader means. If you’re not smart enough to figure that out, you need to spend a few more years in high school: you aren’t ready for college, yet.