Losing Protection of University Policies

This is the second part in our four part series explaining why we are keeping our doctrinal statement (or creed) in our constitution. Below we expand on the second point. The italicized section is what we posted last week.

Second, if we remove the belief requirements for leaders, we, as a community, would have no protection against further regulation of our beliefs and practices on campus. Without language in our constitution requiring leaders to affirm a particular religious belief, we lose protection of our right to freely exercise and express our beliefs on campus, because our constitution’s leadership requirements were the mechanism by which our beliefs and practices have been protected by former university policy. For example, if the university receives a complaint about what a religious group teaches or practices, and the university has approved a constitution that states what we expect leaders to believe and practice, then their policies protect us. Moving forward, there will be no written policy protecting religious beliefs or practices. In the end, functioning in an environment where our beliefs and practices are not protected by university policies puts all religious groups in a tenuous position.

A chief concern about the university’s new non-discrimination policy is that it is the tactical way of removing protection of beliefs and practices, especially unpopular ones, from university policies.

One of the questions we have asked ourselves is, “Why not find a way to select leaders who share our beliefs and then try remain on campus as long as possible?” With this strategy, we’d expect that some day our creed might conflict with the university’s creed and at that time we’d chose to leave rather than compromise our beliefs and/or practices.

There are two problems with this approach.

First, although we support campus religious groups who have found a way to abide by the university’s policy, we cannot in good conscience, given both the spirit and letter of the policy, find a way to select leaders who share our beliefs without using “religious criteria.”  We know that if we asked our student leaders to sign a document promising that they would not use doctrinal beliefs in their selection of new student leaders, we’d be asking them to sign something saying they are not doing something that they are actually doing. (To understand why elections do not solve this problem for us, click here and scroll down)

Second, this strategy presupposes that a ‘big enough’ issue for us to resist the policy has not already arisen. For us, the “big enough” issue is here – it is asking us to pick leaders without regard to their religious beliefs. This policy disallows a central practice of both InterVarsity and the Church. If we compromise on this, the temptation to keep compromising would be strong, and over time, we may subtly undermine the gospel both to avoid conflict with the university or to “correct” ourselves after being censured. And without the ability to disciple student leaders based on shared religious commitments, the slide into compromise could come quickly.

Deciding to keep our creed and being willing to become unregistered actually has provided us with some sense of relief. Though we expect to face different types of challenges, we’ll be able to authentically function and proclaim the gospel with a freedom that we would not have if we remain registered. If we compromise now, we’d be subject to the whims of any administrator that felt like we were departing from the creed of the secular university. Functioning in that environment would present risks we are not willing to take.

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One comment on “Losing Protection of University Policies

  1. Pingback: Discrimination Versus Invidious Discrimination | InterVarsity at Vanderbilt

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