Despite a year’s worth of persuasion and a New York Times article that sparked widespead support this summer, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has lost campus access in America’s largest university system because it requires student leaders to affirm Christian doctrines.
California State University has told the campus ministry that “no exemption can be made” to a new non-discrimination policy that requires leadership positions be open to all students, InterVarsity announced in a monthly prayer letter. Now 23 student chapters are no longer recognized by their universities as official student groups, losing free access to rooms for meetings and student activities fairs for recruiting.
“While we are disappointed, we know God is sovereign,” stated InterVarsity. “He holds the decisions of Cal State and the future of our chapters in his hands. We believe he hears our laments and our requests for intervention.”
The ministry requested prayer for “financial partners to cover the additional costs associated with ministry on campuses where we are no longer able to reserve free meeting space and promote our chapters in the same way we have in the past.”
“This could be the tipping point of other university systems moving in this direction, so that’s why we are concerned,” InterVarsity president Alec Hill told CT earlier this summer. While only a handful of universities have enacted such policies, Cal State’s 450,000 students on 23 campuses could tip the scales “in the sense of public policy and other university systems moving in this direction,” he said.
While some campuses began the school year with their InterVarsity chapter still recognized, InterVarsity national field director Greg Jao told CT today that the executive order applies to all schools. “Each university is implementing at their own pace,” he said. “[But] we cannot meet the requirements created by the Executive Order. This will result in all of our groups being derecognized.”
While the university’s policy asks that the president of each student group sign a statement “attesting that the organization has no rules or policies that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability,” in reality, there are often exceptions, Hill said. Greek societies, athletic groups, and honor societies are all allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender or intelligence, he said.
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To read an interview on this subject with Greg Jao who directs InterVarsity’s response to campus access issues, click here.