InterVarsity Christian Fellowship members say they just want to spread the word, to provide a welcoming space for believers and non-believers alike on college campuses that sometimes can seem cold and isolating.
But because it requires its leaders to hold Christian beliefs, the evangelical student group said, it now is fighting to preserve its religious soul and very existence.
Chapters of InterVarsity and some other Christian groups were stripped of recognition at California State University campuses this fall because they refused to sign a non-discrimination policy requiring clubs and organizations to open their memberships and leadership to all students. (Fraternities and sororities still can limit membership by gender.)In August, Jonathan Turley wrote:
Under the so-called all-comers policy, a Republican could conceivably run for and win election to lead the Democratic club; a white undergraduate could lead the Chinese Student Assn.; a non-musician could be selected to lead the classical guitar club.
Groups that lose recognition can continue meeting on campus, but without free or discounted access to meeting rooms. They also are barred from participating in student fairs and can't receive funding from campus student associations.
InterVarsity students say that relegates them to second-class status, and that policies meant to protect religious thought are instead being used to silence it.
"We could easily sign off on the [non-discrimination] papers," said Long Beach music major Jasmine Kim, 22. "I don't think a non-Christian would want to be a leader in a Christian group. But it's about our integrity."
We have been following the controversy surrounding the confrontation of Feminist Studies Associate Professor Mireille Miller-Young with pro-life advocates on campus. Miller-Young led her students in attacking the pro-life display, stealing their display, and then committing battery on one of the young women. Thrin Short, 16, and her sister Joan, 21, filed complaints and Miller-Young was charged with criminal conduct including Theft From Person; Battery; and Vandalism. To the surprise of some of us, faculty and students rallied behind Miller-Young. She remains employed as a faculty member. Miller-Young initially pleaded not guilty but later entered a guilty plea with an apology. She has now been sentenced to sentenced to three years of probation, 108 hours of community service, 10 hours of anger management, $500 in restitution and a small fine. While her actions (and absence of serious university punishment) remain highly disturbing, some of the letters written on her behalf raise new questions over the commitment of University of California faculty to free speech and core academic principles. Miller-Young has been defended by faculty as the victim of a media campaign to portray her as “an Angry Black Woman” and her seemingly happy demeanor on the videotape has been dismissed as a “mask” that she wears as part of a “cultural legacy of slavery.”