Does an organization have the right to set standards for its leadership? For example, if a school starts a ‘scholarship club’ to encourage students to get better grades, should it require its leaders to be honor roll students? Would it be ok for a “D” student to lead a scholarship club? Would that be the example or the image the club would want to put forward? Does every organization have the right to have standards for its leadership?
That is the question now under discussion at Vanderbilt University. Fox News reported yesterday that the University has a policy that states groups cannot have faith or belief-based requirements for leadership. The logical outcome of this policy is that an atheist could run for president of a Christian group, a Jew for president of a Muslim group, or a non-Catholic for president of a Catholic group. Obviously, this would create more problems than it would solve.
The article reports:
All student groups must register next month. As part of the registration, they must sign a statement of affirmation that they will abide by the nondiscrimination policy.
Vandy Catholic — a student group with some 500 members — has decided it cannot agree to the policy and will be leaving campus in the fall. PJ Jedlovec, the president of Vandy Catholic, says it was a difficult decision, one made after much prayer and discussion.
“We are first and foremost a Catholic organization,” says Jedlovec. “We do, in fact, have qualifications – faith-based qualifications for leadership. We require that our leaders be practicing Catholics. And the university’s nondiscrimination policy — they have made it clear that there is no room in it for an organization that has these faith-based qualifications.”
The article also mentions that these requirements do not apply to fraternities and sororities on campus.
The article concludes:
As a private university, Vanderbilt is allowed to make rules that might not pass muster at a public institution. In fact, Tennessee lawmakers are working on legislation that would specifically prohibit state universities from extending nondiscrimination policies to student religious groups.
In another attempt to change the school administration’s mind, other religious groups on campus plan to sign the statement of affirmation, then submit charters that clearly outline a faith-based criteria for leadership.
That will likely provoke another confrontation with Vanderbilt leadership — one that may see more religious student groups leave.
Religious freedom is one of the cornerstones of our country. If it is not taught and modeled in our colleges, we will lose it within a generation.