Congressional Prayer Caucus Urges Vanderbilt University to Stop Discriminating Against Religious Student GroupsPosted by Randy | May 07, 2012
Today I led 35 Members of Congress in sending a letter to Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos of Vanderbilt University, urging him to ensure that the school’s nondiscrimination policy is not being interpreted in a manner that discriminates against religious student groups.
Last year, several religious student organizations at Vanderbilt University, including the Christian Legal Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, were placed on “provisional status” for requiring their student leaders to share the groups’ religious beliefs. Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy requires all student groups to open leadership positions to all students. Yet the university has exempted fraternities and sororities from the requirement, while refusing to exempt religious student groups. As a result, religious student groups are prohibited from selecting leaders who adhere to their core beliefs and can lead in group activities like worship or Bible study. If Vanderbilt does not change its nondiscrimination policy, at least 11 groups will be forced to leave campus and drop their affiliation with the university.
Vanderbilt’s policy defies common sense. Religious student groups form around specific beliefs, and their leaders obviously lead the groups’ activities. As such, religious groups must be allowed to select leaders that share their core religious beliefs in order to carry out their most basic functions. It is not discrimination; it is common sense.
Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus sent the first letter to Vanderbilt University in October 2011 expressing their concerns with this troubling policy. This policy not only discriminates against religious student groups whose rights are protected by the Constitution, but also leaves the appearance that it is the religious groups that are specifically targeted.
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