Buncombe County School Board to Address Religious Materials Distribution
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
November 15, 2012
Christianity on campus — should it be tolerated? Sadly enough that seems to be the question these days as yet another evangelical group is under attack for daring to require that its leaders espouse Biblical beliefs.
The Tufts University Community Union Judiciary has revoked the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship chapter’s status as an officially recognized student organization, claiming that the organization violates the student body constitution by excluding non-believers.
“College campuses were once teeming with healthy debate and diverse ideas, and at the same time providing venues for like-minded individuals to unite for a common cause. But now days, if that is the cause of Christ, then the group is persecuted for even holding beliefs in common because that’s considered discriminating against anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “When did we so lose our sense of logic that we think it is wrong to require the leader of a Christian group to be a Christian?”
The Tufts Christian Fellowship makes clear in its constitution that it is open to all students but that leaders should “seek to exemplify Christ-like characteristics such as humility, honesty, racial reconciliation, concern for the poor and oppressed of society, sacrificial love, sexual chastity, respect for lawful authority, respect for biblical authority, and integrity, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
David French with the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) said that policies requiring student groups to accept anyone who asks to join them are “an absurd level of mandated openness that actually diminishes diversity.”
“It’s utterly antithetical to free expression,” he told the Boston Globe.
The action against the 120-member group, which is being appealed to a faculty committee, would take away the group’s funding, its use of facilities and permission to use the college’s name.
It’s not the first time Intervarsity’s TCF chapter has been threatened.
“In 2000, we faced a similar circumstance,” Greg Jao, Intervarsity Field Director, told the media. “… The university … protected our right to continue our ministry on the Tufts campus. So we’re hoping that twelve years later, they’ll make the same decision.”
He said the club wasn’t surprised by the attack.
“We see ourselves as a mission on campus, and of course, the mission field doesn’t always welcome the missionary who’s there,” he added.
Buncombe County Board of Education
Meanwhile, closer to home in North Carolina, the Buncombe County Board of Education has asked the school superintendent to create a new policy to address the distribution of religious materials in schools after Bible distribution at North Windy Ridge led a Pagan mother to complain.
In response, the school system expects to have a plan in place by early next month that would have each high school set up an after-school open house style activity where faith-based groups and other community organizations could set up booths and hand out literature. The system would also recognize Jan. 16 as Freedom of Religion Day.
“While we salute their efforts to call attention to Freedom of Religion, the truth is as Americans we have freedom of religion every day, even on school campuses,” said Dr. Creech. “The open house isn’t a bad idea either, as long as school administrators don’t insist that it is the only time that students and teachers can discuss matters of faith.”
Having led seminars on students’ rights in public schools, he was quick to point out that public schools are not supposed to be “religion-free or God-free zones” and that students don’t lose their rights as citizens when they step across the school threshold.
He said administrators shouldn’t try to set parameters around religious expression by designating it for a certain day or at a specific location in the school.
“Whatever the school board decides to do, students should know that they have a right to free speech during non-instructional time at school. They can witness to classmates before and after school, in between class, in the cafeteria or on the playing field,” Dr. Creech added. “They can even share their faith during class, as long as it’s consistent with the subject matter being discussed.”