Sweet Land of “Liberty”

Liberty.

Dictionary.com defines it as “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.”

Supposedly, liberty is one of the three things America was founded upon, the other two being life and the pursuit of happiness. That being the case, the last thing I would expect to hear is that the American Federal court system has “interfered” with college campus religious organizations by “restricting” them from disallowing non-Christians to run for leadership positions. Have you heard about this?  If not, check out this article.

To summarize the whole story, the legal battle began when San Diego State University refused to recognize two Christian organizations – a sorority and a fraternity – simply because they required those in leadership positions within their organization to sign a Christian statement of faith. Apparently this requirement violates the school’s nondiscrimination policy, which was based on an earlier Supreme Court ruling (stating that “public colleges and universities [have] permission to adopt policies requiring all campus groups to be open to all students – as both members and leaders”). That Supreme Court ruling was a general ruling, and those fighting the case at San Diego State questioned whether that ruling could be enforced selectively. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it could not, and now those groups at San Diego State have until April 4th, 2012 to remove the faith requirement or else be removed from campus.

To some this may seem like a small battle, not worth fighting over. But to me, this is government control over the church at its worst. What the courts have effectively said is “the church cannot have any control whatsoever over the government (i.e., separation of church and state), yet the government can exert control over religious organizations.” In my opinion, this may be the worst example of a denial of religious liberty I’ve ever seen in this country. And the logic behind it is absurd. The group defending the campus religious organizations pointed this out:

“Throughout the years of defending its policy,” says the Alliance Defense Fund, “the university did not tell the Democratic club it must be led by a Republican, or the vegetarian club that it must be led by a meat-eater, but it did tell Christian groups that they must allow themselves to be led by atheists.”

And a commenter on the article made another good point:

If you’re going to demand that Christian organizations allow anyone to be in leadership, even if they do not share their faith, then you should open up the office of president so that anyone in the world, regardless of race or nationality be able to be elected president. It’s pretty intolerant of you not to let someone rule our country just because they’re not American!

Obviously this comment was made tongue-in-cheek, but it makes a great point. By saying that anyone, regardless of faith (or lack thereof), must be allowed to act as a leader in a religious organization, is ludicrous.

What about you? What do you think?

UPDATE: After reading a little more on all of this, I’m starting to see that the argument the university is making is that these organizations should not be allowed use of the university’s resources when they discriminate on religion (or race, gender, or sexual orientation, for that matter). Supposedly, the University is not saying that these groups shouldn’t have the right to choose Christian leaders, but that if they do discriminate in this way, they shouldn’t be allowed free use of campus meeting rooms and other resources. When I was in college, the only campus religious organization I ever participated in was the Baptist Student Ministry, and it always relied on it’s own resources (building, etc.), and those provided by area churches, and never any University resources (that I know of). Some would argue that this is what these organizations at SDSU should do…break off and go independent. What do you think? Is that the right thing to do in this case?

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