Vanderbilt discriminating against religious groups in the name of “nondiscrimination”? 6

I have just stumbled across this story, which has clearly been going on for quite a while. Murray (who, it turns out, is headmaster of the school the church I grew up in started a decade or so ago; I do not know him) has written a nice little piece providing a broader historical context. From a quick reading I probably agree with the governor in terms of non-interference with private organizations but strongly disagree with Vanderbilt’s decision.

I assume Vandy is allowing the College Republicans to only select those student leaders who adhere to the basic positions of their party or the LGBTA organization to insist that those in leadership are supportive of an LGBT agenda. Why not the same for Muslim, Jewish and Christian groups?

Last week, Tennessee legislators sent a message to Vanderbilt University: Religious liberty matters. Large majorities in both houses passed a bill to prohibit the school from interfering in the ability of student groups to select their own leaders and members, define their own doctrines and resolve their own disputes—or Vanderbilt risks losing $24 million in state funding.

The legislation follows Vanderbilts decision to stop recognizing campus religious organizations that require their leaders to accept certain religious beliefs on which they are founded. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Vanderbilt Catholic, Navigators and other groups—ministering to about 1,500 students—would effectively be moved off campus in the name of “nondiscrimination.”

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has stated that although he opposes Vanderbilts policy, he plans to veto the bill because it is “inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution.” Thirty-six members of Congress have urged the university to reconsider, stating that its exemption of fraternities and sororities but not religious groups “suggests hostility on the part of Vanderbilt toward religious student groups.”

Ironically, the very freedom Vanderbilt administrators have to make their unfortunate decision derives from a 19th-century Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of Christian colleges such as Vanderbilt, founded under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873.

On Feb. 2, 1819, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Dartmouth. Concluding that the Constitutions contract clause protected private corporate charters, the court paved the way for the founding of myriad private colleges during the 19th century—a large majority of which were affiliated with Christian denominations.

Scores of graduates became leaders in the abolitionist movement, champions of minorities and womens right to education, world missionaries as well as business leaders and influential government officials.Yet today, Vanderbilt officials are restricting the liberty of the very sorts of religious folks who not only founded the school but whose followers led many of the nondiscrimination battles of 19th-century higher education.

Does Vanderbilt really want to miss out on future student leaders who will no doubt choose other schools where they can join organizations that support rather than undermine their faith? As an educator and Vanderbilt alumnus, I will no longer be able to recommend the university to Christian families in good conscience.

I pray that Vanderbilt will reverse course and act in the spirit of Webster—setting a precedent for other universities defending religious liberty for the 21st century.

via John Murray: The Religious Battle of Vanderbilt –


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 thoughts on “Vanderbilt discriminating against religious groups in the name of “nondiscrimination”?

  • Steve Brady

    actually I disagree with the governor. it would be 1 thing if they were passing a law telling them what they can or cannot do. in this case they are tying funding to a requirement of what they do. The university can choose not to pursue the interests of the legislature, but then they must also give up the funding.

    Taxpayer funding with strings attached is the way things are done.

    • Christian Brady Post author

      You are correct that taxpayer funds do come with strings attached, see highway funds and legal drinking age. I do agree that the government can pull the strings, but I would want to see a bit more about the budget before developing a firm view. For example, if the $24M is going to the med school then perhaps the activities of the undergraduate portion is less relevant.

  • mannbrady

    i agree with s brady my first comment was if they take state funds the leg does have a right to say something. i doubrt that 24 million goes only to the med school, from what i have personally observed.

    • Steve Brady

      Actually, I have never been a big fan of saying “this money doesn’t go to #that# so it’s alright.” By segregating money in that way all we do is place a salve on our own conscience, while allowing the organization to shift resources around to cover those things that I resist/dislike.

      For instance, I don’t support abortion, but I give money to Planned Parenthood for condom distribution. It’s alright, because MY money isn’t going to fund abortions or propoganda for abortions. Just don’t remind me that by doing that, I am allowing other “general funds” to be shifted to support that.

      Now, I realize that is not exactly how university funding works–but that said, I am sure the state provides funding for more of Vanderbilt than their medical school…

  • keo

    IVCF was “derecognized” at University at Buffalo this semester because it required its leaders to agree to a statement of religious beliefs.