The battle to freely practice Christianity in America continues at Vanderbilt University as the Vanderbilt Baptist Ministry has withdrew its official student group status in protest of a policy that would require the group to permit non-Christians into their leadership. In January 2012, Vanderbilt instituted an “All Comers Policy” The policy prohibits campus groups from selecting members and leaders based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. For example, a Christian group would be required to allow an atheist student as the head of its leadership. For many of the Christian groups on Vanderbilt’s campus, this was unacceptable. As the Christian Post reports:
Christian groups on campus argue that the new policy violates “the central tenets of our faith,” as being able to elect faith-filled leaders is integral to the survival of a religious group.
Eleven Christian groups opposing the “all-comers” policy formed Vanderbilt Unity, supported by the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian Legal firm that represents clients suffering from religious discrimination. These groups include Asian American Christian Fellowship, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cru, Medical Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Graduate Christian Fellowship, Bridges International, Lutheran Student Fellowship, Every Nation Ministries, Beta Upsilon Chi, and Christian Legal Society, according to Inside Vandy, Vanderbilt University’s student newspaper.
When it came time to register for university student organization status in mid-April, the groups of Vanderbilt Unity purposefully issued their individual charters with specific faith requirements for membership and leadership positions. Other religious groups, such as the university’s Catholic student group, Vanderbilt Catholic, chose not to register at all. These groups did not receive membership status, as they did not abide by the school’s all-comers policy. (source)
As a result these groups cannot receive university funding, use the school’s name in their literature, use any of the university website addresses and other benefits. Vanderbilt Baptist Ministry, who initially complied with the All Comers Policy, has now reversed coursed and withdrew their status as an officially recognized University Student Group.
Thom Thornton, director of Vanderbilt BCM, explained to Baptist Press that his group had “been assured by the university that we can select leaders committed to the organization’s mission.” “I think the expectations from the school are not expectations that we can abide by long-term,” said Davis, adding that “it was my coming to a clearer understanding on what this all meant” that made him consider the previous agreement “bothersome.” (source)
The Bible is clear that Christians should not enter into spiritual work with unbelievers:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. – 2 Corinthians 6:15-17
While Christians can certainly socialize with people of all faiths, when it comes to spiritual work in which you will be “yoked” (referring to the harness used to keep oxen together when plowing a field), Christians should be working with those of like faith. While the church should always be open to all people there is no Biblical support to allow a non-believer to be the head of a Christian organization. In 1 Timothy chapter 3 the Bible details requirements for pastors, teachers and deacons in the Bible and being an actual born again Christian is the basic standard for membership.
Double Standard On Display
Vanderbilt’s administrators have maintained that this policy is about preventing discrimination:
“All along, we have stressed that the policy is about rejecting discrimination and not about restricting religious freedom. We firmly believe the two principles can coexist on the Vanderbilt campus, and are gratified that many of our religious student organizations agree,” Richard McCartney said in the statement. Similarly, Beth Fortune, vice chancellor for public affairs at the university, previously told The Washington Post, “This debate is about nondiscrimination, not religious freedom, and we stand behind our policy.”
However Vanderbilt’s many fraternities and sororities, some of the biggest promoters of social exclusion are still permitted to accept or deny members based on their own standards (which are often done based on physical appearance, how cool or popular a student is, family connections, wealth, etc.). In addition to maintaining gender restrictions. Similarly the sports teams at Vanderbilt can still pick and choose whom they want to be on their teams and do not have to heed to the “All Comers” policy. This blatant “discrimination” is no issue for the University.
Pray for the Christian student groups at Vanderbilt who are taking a stand for their faith and not compromising Biblical principles. When the Apostles were confronted with rules that were made to prevent them from preaching the Apostle Peter led the group in saying: “We ought to obey God rather than men” Even if the student groups have to be underground churches on their own campus, pray that their faith will stay strong and that they will continue to stand for what God says even if it is not popular with the world.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:1-3