Rollins College has determined that a Christian student organization is in violation of the school’s nondiscrimination policy because the group requires its leaders to be followers of Christ.
The college’s board of trustees voted unanimously not to exempt the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship from the policy – meaning the Christian group will no longer receive funding and will not be recognized as an official campus organization.
“The principles of the nondiscrimination policy, which are at the heart of the educational process, are inconsistent with allowing exceptions for student organizations,” the college said in a statement. “Such exemptions would be inconsistent with the processes of learning and growth that the College seeks to foster.”
Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s national field director, told Fox News that the college’s decision sends an ominous message to Christian students.
“Their actions suggest if you have strongly held religious beliefs – you are not welcome on the campus – particularly if you have any intention of living them out,” Jao said. “It suggests religion is an impermissible or a disfavored category that’s not worthy of the same protections as gender or sexual orientation.”
InterVarsity said it welcomes all students and faculty members to participate in their organization. However, leaders are required to sign a statement of faith.
“As a religious student group it is incumbent upon us to require our leaders affirm a very simple statement of faith,” he said.
InterVarsity’s chapter was derecognized last fall and was invited to organize under the college’s chapel program. But the school’s president intervened and prevented that from happening.
Jao said he’s not sure what will happen to the group now.
“Ironically, in the pursuit of a tolerant and diverse environment on campus, Rollins is acting in intolerant ways that are excluding people,” Jao said.
It’s not the first time religious groups – specifically Christian groups – have run afoul of non-discrimination policies.
Earlier this year, the University of Michigan banned InterVarsity’s Asian chapter over the same issue. After intense national media attention and outrage from alumni, the university backtracked and agreed to recognize the group.
Last year 14 Christian groups left Vanderbilt University rather than comply with draconian demands to change their bylaws.
Jao said InterVarsity’s Vanderbilt chapter was one of those displaced groups. He said Christians there “feel disenfranchised, distinctly unwelcome.”
“”We feel that the religious voice on campus is being marginalized,” he told Fox News.
Rollins said in their statement that they continue to “welcome and encourage religious student organizations.”
“These organizations are predicated on the right of students to form and freely express their own beliefs and values,” the statement read. “Respect for all religious faiths is essential, and respectful dialogue among groups is encouraged.”
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