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The Alliance Defense Fund has written a letter to a “Christian” college asking officials there to reconsider their decision to ban several national and international Christian student organizations because the groups are too evangelical.
Georgetown University, which boasts a tradition of more than 200 years of Jesuit and Catholic teachings, recently sent letters to half a dozen evangelical Christian organizations telling them they no longer are welcome.
“Now I’ve seen derecognition letters before, but this one takes the cake,” David French, the senior legal counsel for the ADF, said of the Georgetown University decision. “Blessings and may God’s peace be on you! … Now get off campus!”
He told WND that there’s been no satisfactory explanation for the sudden change in school policy, but those in a position to know best say the groups, such InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, are too evangelical.
“The real interesting thing is that Georgetown tossed these groups, but left the Muslim Student Alliance and the Jewish Student Alliance intact,” French told WND. “This Christian college is giving more religious freedom to Muslims and Jews than to Christians.”
He said the evangelical groups simply want “to have a place at the table” with other religious groups.
The ADF letter to John DeGioia, the president, and Rev. Timothy S. Godfrey, S.J., a campus ministry leader, and others asked them to correct the “discriminatory decision by the school’s Office of Campus Ministries.
“OCM’s actions completely betray the goals, ideals and values that have given Georgetown University the reputation for excellence it enjoys today,” the letter said. “They also highlight a disturbing double standard when compared to the way that the University treats Jewish and Muslim student organizations.”
The letter noted that Georgetown advertises that it believes “serious and sustained” discourse among people of differing faiths promotes understanding. However, the difference between its statements and its actions is “a sizeable credibility gap,” the letter said.
That “gap” expands when the university’s treatment of Jewish and Muslim organizations is added. One group is set up to “encourage” Jewish students to grow in their faith, a second is dedicated to “development and growth of the school’s Muslim community,” yet Christians evangelicals are banned.
“The only difference is that they are promoting different religions. But rather than celebrating this diversity, OCM has banished one religious tradition from campus,” the letter said.
The school actions also violate its own free speech policy and student organization policy, the letter notes.
Ironically, the school recently hosted K. Anthony Appiah in an address sponsored by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. He noted that religious differences are “made easier if there is an ongoing, respectful, cosmopolitan conversation between adherents of different religious traditions.”
Appiah, the Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Philosophy at the University Center for Human Values and Princeton, also suggested “the real divides are not between one religion and another but between what you might loosely (and perhaps unhelpfully) call fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist forms of religiosity.”
French said the university, which is private, has the right to dictate who it wants on campus, but essentially it is staging a “bait-and-switch” with students and parents by proclaiming that they will enjoy “full religious freedom” on campus, when they won’t.
“Come and spend your $120,000 and your child will enjoy the full range of First Amendment rights,” he said the school pitch is. However, when the students arrive, the school has “yanked some of those critical rights.”
In a commentary at PhiBetaCons.NationalReview.com, French said once again, “it appears that a modern liberal university’s commitment to diversity, tolerance, and the free exchange of ideas does not extend to evangelical Christians.”
The brush-off letter from the university starts: “Blessings and may God’s peace be upon you!” but deteriorates shortly later to: “Protestant Ministry has decided to move in another direction.”
As a result, Georgetown said, “Your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence (i.e. bible (sic) studies, retreats with Georgetown students, Mid-week (sic) worship services, fellowship events, move-in assistance, SAC Fair, etc.) on campus.”
Further, the school told the ministry organizations, “All websites linking your ministries to a presence at Georgetown University will need to be modified to reflect the terminated relationship. Your ministries are not to publicize in any literature, media, advertisement, etc. that Georgetown University is or will be an active ministry site for your ministry/church/denomination.”
“ADF recognizes that Georgetown University is a private institution and that it is not bound by the constitutional principles detailed above. It is, however, bound by the moral values it has long proclaimed in its own promises and policies. There is no conceivable harm to the University in granting the Affiliated Ministries the same rights and access given to Jewish and Muslim organizations.”
“The real problem at Georgetown is the same problem that has plagued campuses across the country: an increasing intolerance for religious students and student groups (regardless of whether they are Catholic or Protestant) who take the Bible seriously and seek to live their lives under the authority of Scripture,” French said in a blog on the ADF site.
“In the many years I’ve spent defending Christians on campus, I’ve never seen a campus, private or public, eject a Christian student group from campus that followed campus orthodoxy on the relevant social and religious issues of the day.”
Georgetown’s explanation has varied: It told the groups in the letter it was going a “different direction.” Then it told subsequent news reports that there was a failure in “communication.” It also has said, through spokesman Erik Smulson, that the chaplaincy recently was reorganized and it wanted more control over ministries on campus.
The university did not respond to a request from WND for a comment.
The Washington Post also reported that the key issue was “whether those in the groups proselytize.”
“Suddenly the university imposed new rules requiring them to come to Campus Ministry-sponsored events, and school officials asked questions about what they ‘tell students behind closed doors,’ said Kevin Offner, who oversees the InterVarsity program,” the news report said.
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