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Hawkeye Redux

August 21, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By MIKE MANNO

In our February 8, 2018 edition I wrote about a student group, Business Leaders in Christ (BLinC), that had its status as a recognized student group revoked by the University of Iowa. The long and short of the story was that while the group was open to all students, its leaders had to affirm certain Christian principles. “All Christians are under obligation to seek to follow the example of Christ in their own lives and in human society,” was how the BLinC expressed it; but even if you could not follow, you could still become a member, just not an elected leader.
The story ended with a federal court decision which ordered the university to restore BLinC’s status as a recognized group. Fast-forward six months and the university did the same thing to another religious group, InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, over the same thing: It limits leadership positions to those embracing its purpose “to establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus.”
Same song, almost identical words, and nearly the same result. A little background:
InterVarsity serves over 600 campuses nationwide, yet over 40 efforts have been made to decertify it as a recognized student organization. I have found no record of it ever conducting a violent protest, blocking students from other venues, or creating any disturbance on any college anywhere.
The problem, of course, is that it is Christian, and, since being Christian is offensive to many in the campus community, student, staff, and faculty, it must be banished. In a society that is hell-bent on removing God from a position of importance, it should not come as a surprise that the vanguard of the attack on Christianity should come on college campuses. Our friends at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) put it this way:
“Many students accustomed to being in an active religious majority in their high schools and communities will find an almost complete reversal of their circumstances when they enter the world of American higher education….In many ways, religious liberty is now center stage in the battle for freedom on campus. For too many administrators, religious students are particularly convenient targets. After all, they think and behave in ways that many other students don’t understand; they tend to be very small minorities on most campuses; and — by religious conviction — they often resist even the most heavy-handed repression.
For all the talk about diversity and tolerance, too few students and faculty care when people of faith are given fewer rights than other groups, and such believers enjoy scant support when they engage in religious practices deemed ‘regressive’ by their more ‘progressive’ peers. In the eyes of the modern academic community, the fewer ‘fanatics’ — of the ‘wrong’ kind — the better.”
The tactic that is used to try to eliminate InterVarsity and other similar groups is to use the school’s nondiscrimination policy to argue that by confining leadership to believing Christians the organization is engaged in religious discrimination. In the University of Iowa cases, that is exactly what the administration tried to do. The requirement that group leaders share its faith is considered noncompliant with university nondiscrimination policies.
In the current Iowa case, administrators told InterVarsity that even if the group did drop its requirements that leaders live by its religious mission, it still would not be allowed to simply “encourage” them to do so. So last month the university deregistered InterVarsity along with 18 other student groups, including the Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, Geneva Campus Ministry, and the Latter-day Saint Student Association. Naturally, the university did not decertify sports clubs, fraternities and sororities, political and ideological groups — they may keep their policies that their leaders (and members) share their mission.
And it’s not as if InterVarsity is an isolated, closed cult. For the 25 years it has been on the university campus, its volunteers have been active in many community and campus activities, including fundraising for groups assisting the poor.
InterVarsity seems to be one of the main targets of the anti-Christian left, and just some of the campuses where attempts to decertify it have taken place include: Indiana University, Bowdoin College, Rollins College, SUNY Buffalo, Tufts University, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt University, Wayne State University, and 23 campuses on the Cal State system.
And, as a target, InterVarsity was born. It began at the University of Cambridge, England, in 1877 where, despite the disapproval of some university officials, a group of Christian students met to pray, study the Bible, and to share their faith with other students. As similar groups at other campuses were established, they formed what was then called the British Inter-Varsity. Today there are more than 1,000 InterVarsity staffers serving more than 40,000 students and faculty in the United States.
On August 6, InterVarsity, with the help of The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, filed suit in federal court for injunctive relief, damages, costs, and attorney fees against the University of Iowa and five administrators in both their official and individual capacities.
The 38-page lawsuit lists 17 counts against the defendants, including six claiming violations of the First Amendment; five claiming violations of statute or the Fourteenth Amendment, and six claiming violations of the state constitution.
A week after the lawsuit was filed, the university, apparently after consulting its attorneys, agreed to temporarily reinstate InterVarsity and all the other religious groups it had decertified. However, if common sense does not prevail and the matter does go to court, it will be heard in the same court that last January ruled against the university in the BLinC case.
“As we all prepare to head back to school, we’re excited to know InterVarsity will also be back on campus and part of the community we love,” said Katrina Schrock, student president of InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship. “These last few months have been crazy, but we’re grateful to be able to get back to focusing on meeting and serving the new graduate and professional students in our Hawkeye community.”
In my earlier column I opined that it would be in everyone’s best interest if the university would just let the matter die. School administrators chose not to do so until hauled into a federal court where they apparently decided that it was not good policy to continue to spend university monies to perpetuate a continuation of its vendetta against Christian groups.
Do I care? Well, I’m a Cyclone — not a Hawkeye fan. But, more important, we all should care. This is simply the continuation of the societal attack on anything Christian. Get used to it, folks — we now belong to the counterculture.
(You can contact Mike at: DeaconMike@q.com.)

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