Some years ago a nasty episode of Christian-bashing took place at Exeter university, with the connivance and support of the university authorities. I read this evening (via Dyspepsia Generation) of similar harassment in US universities. The university headlining the article is Vanderbilt.
Is Vanderbilt University flirting with the suppression of religion? Yes, according to Carol Swain, a professor at Vanderbilt’s Law School.
Specifically, Swain is referring to four Christian student groups being placed on “provisional status” after a university review found them to be in non-compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy.
Vanderbilt says the student organizations cannot require that leaders share the group’s beliefs, goals and values. …
Among the groups threatened with shut down is the Christian Legal Society. It ran afoul with this language from its constitution. “Each officer is expected to lead Bible studies, prayer and worship at chapter meetings.”
What fiends these Christians are. The article continues:
CLS’s Gunter says his group’s membership is open to anyone, but leaders have a different requirement. “CLS is a Christian organization”, he told me. “That means to preserve our integrity, we need Christian leaders.”
Carol Swain is CLS’s faculty advisor. She insists the university has gone way beyond political correctness with its actions and demands. “It seems reasonable”, she told me, “to require that leaders share the beliefs of the organizations that they seek to lead.” She sees this as part of a larger problem at liberal-leaning universities across the nation. She says, “I see it as part of a larger attack on religious freedom that’s taking place across the country – particularly when it comes to conservative groups.”
This is familiar territory for the Christian Legal Society. Last year the Supreme Court ruled against a lawsuit it filed against Hastings Law School in California. CLS had argued that Hastings’ “all-comers” policy regarding student groups infringed on its right to religious freedom. …
The Vanderbilt group – and the national CLS organization are worried about “infiltration”, arguing that a person hostile to the group could rise to a leadership position, then attempt to tear it apart through conflict. CLS did have a problem at Washburn University Law School when a student whose religious beliefs were contrary to the group was allowed to lead a Bible study. When CLS stopped him he complained. Washburn put CLS on “provisional status”, but reinstated the group when CLS sued.
I remember, when I was a student, that leftist student activists campaigned for “general meeting sovereignity”. They wanted the student union meetings to have the power to do everything. What this meant, however, was something different.
Most students never go to student union meetings, having beer to drink and other things to do. The few that do quickly get bored and leave. So what this innocent-sounding demand really meant was the abolition of student democracy and the transference of all power to the activists. Quel surprise, perhaps.
A similar demand was made at Exeter. (Rather to my surprise, I can find no blog post here about that event. An article at Catholic Action is here). The 50-year old Christian Union allowed any student to attend, but would not allow unbelievers to be officers. One unbelieving student demanded this, and then organised a campaign to get the CU banned. Various evil events then occurred.
The point of the demand is simple. All these groups allow any student to come along, and often to be members. But once a non-believer can be the leader, all an ill-disposed person has to do, is arrange for a couple of hundred non-Christians to turn up, “as a joke”, and vote him in. At which point he can do with the CU — and its funds — as he pleases. Effectively the CU is disbanded.
But the CU refuses to allow this unreasonable demand, the university can be brought in to disband the CU on grounds of “diversity”. Whatever they do, the Christians cannot win. In both cases, it is impossible for the Christians to operate as a recognised student society.
In the Exeter case, the UCCF — the CU parent body — outmaneouvered the haters at Exeter by doing a deal with the National Union of Students, while friends in the media brought the story to national prominence. There have been some nasty cases of attacks on Catholic student bodies also.
But it is telling that the same tactic is being used in the US.
We need to face up to the reality, that all of this harassment indicates a shift in attitudes towards Christianity. It indicates that the amused contempt of the last few decades is giving way to real hatred. The establishment has adopted a path of institutional vice, as it did in the Restoration period. Those determined to follow vice do not care to be reminded that what they are doing is wrong, and are not scrupulous about how they deal with anything they dislike. The government of Charles II created almost all the legislation for religious discrimination that stained this country for the next two centuries, and forced half the country into “non-conformity”, i.e. exclusion from state service or participation in the nation. I remember seeing a gloating article in The Guardian, welcoming the possibility of recreating non-conformity. I think we may expect to see more such harassment of Christians in the next few years, both here and in the US.
These are sad times. Let us remember, however, that “they hated Me, and they will hate you.”