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Wayne State University caves, allows InterVarsity Christian Fellowship back on campus
Expecting the leaders of a Christian group to believe in Christianity is going to have to be all right.
This is a legal victory and it should be. It's right on the law and it's right on basic common sense. The idea that a student group can't require its leaders to agree with its mission is so absurd as to be impossible to take seriously as a policy - yet where we are as a culture actually requires people who hasn't lost all vestiges of sanity to defend this seemingly obvious notion in court.
Now, whether it's a victory worth winning in Kingdom terms is another matter, but we'll get to that. First the basic facts: Like many other universities, Wayne State rules that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was in violation of its anti-discrimination policies by requiring IVCF leaders (not all members, but leaders) to adhere to Christianity. Who could argue with something so basic? The modern education establishment, that's who, because if you have to be a Christian then atheists and adherents to other religions are on the outs, and that's discrimination.
It makes about as much sense as saying the Young Democrats can't exclude you from leadership for being a Republican, but sense has little to do with these things. IVCF sued and Wayne State quickly realized it was going to lose:
Just two days after InterVarsity Christian Fellowship filed a lawsuit against Wayne State University, the Detroit school decided to let the chapter regain its official status on campus once again—one of the quickest initial victories in a string of legal battles over Christian groups at public colleges
Last year, InterVarsity lost its recognition as a student group at Wayne State, the third-largest school in Michigan, over requirements that its leaders affirm the organization’s Christian beliefs. The school viewed the belief requirement as a violation of its nondiscrimination policy.
InterVarsity sued on Tuesday, claiming religious discrimination; other student groups allowed on campus similarly ask leaders to share certain core values. Wayne State ultimately re-certified the student ministry on Thursday.
“We’re so glad that Wayne State is letting us back on campus,” said Cristina Garza, former president and current member of Wayne State’s InterVarsity chapter, which dates back 75 years and is one of the oldest in the country. “We hope the school will make this change permanent, so no other students have to go through what we’ve been through over the last six months.”
InterVarsity is all too familiar with the fight for campus access, having lost then regained its place on 19 Cal State campuses in 2014 and 2015 due to the schools’ “all comers” policy, which requires school-sanctioned groups to open membership eligibility to all students and leadership positions to all members. Such a policy also led to InterVarsity getting forced off Vanderbilt University’s campus a few years before.
This outcome is so obvious as a matter of law and basic fairness, it's astonishing it was ever a question in the first place. But none of us who have seen what's happened in recent years can really be surprised. The political environment that wants to force Christian bakers to bake cakes for gay "weddings" is just as eager to try to force Christian organizations to consider atheists as their leaders. The secular left is looking for ways to set up belief in the Bible as "discriminatory," and sexuality is usually the wedge issue that's used to make the case.
Christians need to understand what's going on. It's bigger than a cake here or a student group there. It's a matter of whether Christianity itself will become functionally illegal, not to believe or express in church, but to practice in everyday life.
That said, I think in many ways the IVCF victory at Wayne State is a hollow one, at least in an isolated sense. God's people need to be careful about relying so much on the recognition of secular institutions in order to do their work. If Wayne State refused to recognize IVCF as an official student organization, what would that mean? It would probably make it more difficult to get access to meeting rooms, perhaps some funding and probably the use of some university resources to make announcements, recruit new members and so forth. But these things could still be done with a bit of resourcefulness.
Remember, God has all the resources His people will ever need, if only we will ask and wait on Him. He has more for us to use than Wayne State University ever will.
There's nothing wrong with accessing the world's resources if it doesn't force us to compromise our mission. But there's going to come a point where we might have to decide whether it's worth it to use what they're offering us if we also have to follow their rules and accept their restrictions. And we have to be careful always fighting for "fairness" just so we don't feel like we're being persecuted.
News flash: We're going to be persecuted for the faith. That's always been part of the deal and God warned us about it. The way to overcome is to follow His instructions and rely on Him, not constantly run to the courts and tell the world to stop it. The world will just find new ways to do it.
I'm glad IVCF won this, but it might have been even better if they'd been forced to fend for themselves, and they'd heard from God on exactly how to do it.
Dan writes Christian spiritual warfare novels and does all kinds of other weird things too. Follow all his activity by liking him on Facebook!