Some time ago I learned that Tufts University in the USA had decided to ban the Christian Union. The excuses made for such bigotry may amuse the educated reader, but need not concern us. But today I received an email, under the name of Dr Anthony Monaco, President of the University, of which I give the body here.
I am writing to update you on the status of the recognition of the Tufts Christian Fellowship. The Committee on Student Life has now issued its decision with respect to the derecognition of TCF by the judicial arm of our student government. A message to the campus community from the Co-Chairs of the Committee on Student Life, announcing the decision, appears below and includes a link to the text of the decision itself. The Tufts Daily opinion piece by the Committee Co-Chairs further explaining the Committee’s rationale for its decision is now available at http://blogs.tuftsdaily.com/?p=8815/
I believe that the CSL’s thoughtful decision is in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus.
And below is the following, inter alia. The emphases are mine.
The CSL found that the TCUJ had acted in accordance with available policy, and thus acted appropriately in de-recognizing the TCF. The appeal, however, identified a void in policy which led the CSL to explore the conditions under which Student Religious Groups (SRGs) could select for leadership exemplars of their faith based on characteristics not necessarily shared by all SRG members. The CSL determined that SRGs should be permitted to select leaders based on doctrinal requirements.
In certain cases, criteria for leadership positions may conflict with Tufts University’s nondiscrimination policy. As religion itself is protected under the nondiscrimination policy, conflicts may be unavoidable. The CSL has carefully crafted a policy to support the University’s commitments to safeguarding spiritual life on campus and maintaining an environment that upholds the nondiscrimination policy.
From this point forward, all SRGs must justify on doctrinal grounds any departures from Tufts’ nondiscrimination policy in that their leadership positions require. The University Chaplain will evaluate the justification, and if satisfied that the described criteria for leadership are required by a given religion, will allow the SRG to apply to the TCUJ for recognition.
In evaluating applications for recognition, the TCUJ will ensure that any such approved criteria are explicitly described in easy-to-understand language. This language will be consolidated, summarized, and made available to the community via the University Chaplaincy webpage. The TCF is now welcome to reapply to the TCUJ for recognition in accordance with this new policy.
While the CSL’s jurisdiction extends only to the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, the University’s senior administration will work with the University Chaplain and school leadership to apply this policy University-wide.
In plain language, this seems to mean, “We will require every Christian group to obtain the approval of the chaplaincy before we will consider whether it may be allowed to operate. And then we’ll see.” The newly minted policy is here. Whether it is constitutional might reasonably be enquired.
It looks to my ignorant eyes as if the university intends to keep the Christian Union over the fire for a good long time while various people with no judicial training (the chaplaincy again appears in this role) scrutinise whether or not the Christians might, or might not, be allowed to operate as a university society.
If so, this is a further evil. Ezra Levant pithy remarked, of the pseudo-legal proceedings to which he was subjected, “the process is the punishment”. Likewise in Arthur Bryant’s three volume life of Samuel Pepys, he describes how Pepys, facing politically motivated accusations, was kept from reaching trial for term after term by repeated deferrals. In one case his political opponents joked that they had kept him “by the heels for another term.”
But, as a foreigner, I am mildly baffled. In the USA there used to be a constitutional principle called freedom of religion. As far as I remember, it said nothing about requiring the approval of chaplains, or bishops, or licensers. Indeed I rather thought that it explicitly prohibited the establishment of such things by the state and its organs?
This process of harassment, remember, has been described by the university president as “thoughtful” and “in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community” — hmm — “and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus”.
Quite so! And my only feeling on reading those words was one of gratitude. For I am deeply grateful that the task of feeding my family has never placed me in a position where I am obliged to utter Kafkaesque statements like this.
To any free man, the very idea of having his brains strained for conformity to some arbitrary orthodoxy by minor officials is repugnant. But the phrases chosen may be read two ways. This is probably not accidental. Indeed it often happens in unfree societies, where prolixity and obscurity may be the only security of a slave. On the one hand the words seem very like the evasions practiced by those who know that they are doing wrong and yet are determind to do it anyway. But possibly they may be the stock phrases uttered by a slave who is trying to do the right thing, and fears a beating. It is hard to decide which is the case. And the answer might vary, day by day.
The Christian Union, at any rate, has no security under these arrangements. That, no doubt, is intentional; to weary, to wear down, to confuse, delay, harass … all the tricks of the persecutor who knows that what he does is wrong and would not be endorsed by society at large, yet is determined to do it anyway.
What is clear is that Tufts University urgently needs reform, and an external commission of inquiry. In a free country, a confessional university may reasonably require that those who run it share its ethos; and those who attend it at least do not set out to undermine it. But that is not the case here; the university professes to welcome everyone. Yet surely, in a free country, no university of this kind paid for by public funds should be permitted to conduct a religious persecution, or to set up a religious inquisition, or to interfere with the enquiry of young minds into every form of normal or mainstream intellectual life and practice? Any “non-discrimination policy” that ends in banning mainstream Christian groups is a nonsense, and must be abolished. May I suggest that the withdrawal of funds by the state would probably be the most desirable immediate aim?
We can see in this that some wretched souls at Tufts — possibly including the president and the chaplain — have set out to do harm to God’s people. In the process they have revealed that only the Christian Union, on the campus, is actually following in the footsteps of He who said that his followers would be hated. Those who are to say, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”, in this corrupt age, will be accused of all sorts of things!
God knows those who set out to do harm, even if we do not. These people, of course, are about to undergo suffering at the hands of God. For even the unbeliever has heard of karma. The more educated know that the measure you give is the measure you get. We should pray for them, that their suffering will bring them to realise their need for a saviour.
In the mean time, let us give thanks to God that the TCF has been found worthy to suffer for His Name, and that those who hate Him have proclaimed so powerfully at Tufts University their faithfulness. And let us pray for them, and their national body, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, that God will give them wisdom and grace.
It is, after all, rather a compliment to be endorsed as the only Christian body on site to be faithful to Christ. For what else, in truth, is alleged against them?!
UPDATE (7/12/12): I see that there is a press-release at the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship site here.