Called to the campus
In the 2005 study 'Spiritual Life of College Students' by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, many students said that they enrolled in college to find their life’s purpose and they expected their college education to help them with their emotional and spiritual development. Findings included:
- 75% said they were “searching for meaning and purpose in life”
- 67% said that it was important to them that their college "helps you develop your personal values"
InterVarsity has been an active ministry on college campuses for more than 70 years. Student interest in spirituality has never been higher. We believe that the presence on campus of an authentic Christian witness contributes to the kind of campus diversity that students expect from an institution of higher learning.
As good citizens on campus, we assert that Christian organizations should have the right to require their leaders to believe and follow the traditional Christian principles and goals of their organization based, in part, on the free exercise clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and, in part, on simple logic. We believe our chapters contribute to a positive campus environment through volunteer activities and the high moral standards required of our student members.
However, on a number of campuses, we are facing challenges to our ability to be an authentic Christian organization.
Tufts University, MA
The Tufts Community Union Judiciary de-recognized the InterVarsity Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) due to faith-based requirements for leadership. TCF appealed the decision. The Committee on Student Life responded by instituting a new policy which allows student religious groups to use religious criteria in leadership selection.
- Chaplaincy considers student concerns - Tufts Daily, December 7, 2011
- TCF's group recognition on hold - Tufts Daily, October 3, 2012
- A recognized TCF must abide by Tufts' values - Tufts Daily, October 3, 2012
- TCF to appeal TCUJ derecognition - Tufts Daily, October 22, 2012
- TCF loses official recognition, plans to appeal - Tufts Daily, October 22, 2012
- Tufts University bans Christian group - Weekly Standard, October 22, 2012
- Tufts Christian group fighting bias claims - World on Campus, October 24, 2012
- Tufts student government votes to 'de-recognize' evangelical group - Boston Globe, October 27, 2012
- Committee on Student Life to hear TCF's derecognition case - Tufts Daily, November 5, 2012
- Group's faith rule stirs clash at Tufts University - Boston Globe, November 13, 2012
- Boston Globe editorial in support of Tufts Christian Fellowship, November 17, 2012
- Tufts Committee on Student Life Decision on Student Religious Groups Recognition, December 5, 2012
- CSL Allows for Religious Exemption - Tufts Daily, December 5, 2012
- Tufts Chapter Restored - InterVarsity news release, December 6, 2012
- Balancing Religious Diversity and Nondiscrimination - Tufts Daily Op-Ed, December 6, 2012
- InterVarsity Wins Key Discrimination Battle at Tufts - Christianity Today, December 6, 2012
- Tufts University Overturns Ruling Against Campus Christian Group - Boston Globe, December 7, 2012
- Statement by Tufts President Anthony Monaco, December 7, 2012
- Why I am a leader in TCF - Tufts Daily Op-Ed, December 10, 2012
- TCU Senate Update - Tufts Daily, December 10, 2012
- Can Tufts Handle Religious Pluralism? - FIRE, December 11, 2012
State University of New York at Buffalo
The Student Association Senate at the University at Buffalo voted in April 2012 to derecognize InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. The vote was overturned by a ruling of the Student Wide Judiciary in July 2012.
Vanderbilt University, Nashville
Vanderbilt has placed on provisional status InterVarsity’s Graduate Christian Fellowship and several other Christian organizations until the issue of compliance with the University’s nondiscrimination policy is resolved. InterVarsity believes Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policy infringes on our religious rights by restricting our ability to use religious criteria to determine the leadership and the character of our organization.
- InterVarsity@Vanderbilt blog
- Vanderbilt’s statement, September 27, 2011
- InterVarsity Campus Staff Member Tish Harrison Warren's response, October 2, 2011
- InterVarsity’s Statement of Doctrine and Beliefs
- Vanderbilt Chancellor’s message on nondiscrimination, January 20, 2012
- Open letter to Chancellor Zeppos from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, January 27, 2012
- Vanderbilt Town Hall Meeting announcement for Tuesday, January 31, 2012
- Student-written plea for return to religious freedom at Vanderbilt, January 29, 2012
- Campus newspaper summary article, January 30, 2012
- Campus newspaper Town Hall Meeting report, February 1, 2012
- Nashville City Paper news coverage, February 1, 2012
- Vanderbilt News Service Town Hall Meeting report, February 1, 2012
- Watch the Town Hall Meeting on You Tube, February 1, 2012
- Letter to Chancellor Zeppos from United Methodist Bishop Ben Chamness, February 2, 2012
- Robert Shibley, Senior Vice President of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, analyzes Vanderbilt's Town Hall meeting, February 6, 2012
- Opinion column written by James Emery White, Vanderbilt and InterVarsity alumnus, February 13, 2012
- Baptist Press raises questions about Vanderbilt's nondiscrimination policy, February 18, 2012
- Vanderbilt issues statement on All Comers Policy to the Christian Post, February 21, 2012
- Christian clubs told to "Stop whining" - Christian Post, February 22, 2012
- "Rev. Gomes and Religious Freedom" - Opinion column by Campus Staff Member Tish Harrison Warren in Inside Vandy, March 1, 2012
- Vanderbilt's Right to Despise Christianity - Witherspoon Institute, March 14, 2012
- Chuck Colson Campus Crackdown commentary - Breakpoint, March 15, 2012
- Catholic Student Group to Leave Vanderbilt over Bias Policy - Tennessean, March 28, 2012
- Eleven organizations refuse to comply with Vanderbilt's policy - Inside Vandy, April 9, 2012
- Christian groups differ on compliance with Vanderbilt policy - USAToday, April 27, 2012
- Tennessee lawmakers target Vanderbilt's policy - April 30, 2012
- Governor says he will veto Vanderbilt legislation - Tennessean, May 3, 2012
- Vanderbilt critics point to Harvard - Tennessean, May 3, 2012
- Baptist Collegiate Ministry declines registered status - Baptist Press, May 7, 2012
- Vanderbilt Baptists reverse course - World on Campus, May 8, 2012
- Members of Congress target Vanderbilt's policy - May 7, 2012
- Students shine light despite Vanderbilt's policy - CBN News, May 8, 2012
- The Religious battle of Vanderbilt - Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2012
- Vanderbilt should voluntarily end 'All Comers' Policy: Haslam TNReport.com, May 11, 2012
- Tennessee governor vetoes bill challenging Vanderbilt's policy - Christian Post, May 23, 2012
- Mixed Views on Vanderbilt Veto - Christianity Today, July 17, 2012
- Vanderbilt hires a chaplain - The Tennessean, August 9, 2012
- Vanderbilt Squeeze - World on Campus, August 10, 2012
- Exiled from Vanderbilt: How Colleges Are Driving Religious Groups Off Campus (Video) - FIRE, August 20, 2012
- Severed Ties: Vanderbilt's CounterIntuitive Reform - Inside Vandy - August 22, 2012
- A New Semester - InterVarsity at Vanderbilt blog post - August 27, 2012
After the January 31st Town Hall Meeting InterVarsity released the following statement:
InterVarsity is disappointed that Vanderbilt’s administration has not been responsive to the concerns expressed by its students. We remain hopeful that a position change is still possible that will allow InterVarsity’s Graduate Christian Fellowship and other Christian organizations to require their leaders to be practicing Christians. Any organization must have leadership that believes in its goals and purposes in order to remain active and relevant. We believe authentic expressions of Christian faith should be a part of the forum of ideas on the campus of Vanderbilt or any other university.
UPDATE: Please be in prayer for the Vanderbilt administration and Trustees, that they will decide to revise the nondiscrimination policy so that it does not discriminate against campus religious groups.
InterVarsity has been confronted with campus access issues for more than ten years. In 2002 InterVarsity filed suit against Rutgers University to defend the rights of our student chapter. On October 3, 2006, we filed action in federal court on behalf of InterVarsity students at the University of Wisconsin-Superior after the chapter was derecognized. We also raised concerns about the August, 2006, disaffiliation of our chapters on the campus of Georgetown University. We are pleased to report that the Rutgers University, UW-Superior, and Georgetown University situations were agreeably resolved and that InterVarsity students in these chapters continue to be part of thriving, officially recognized, campus organizations. We are also pleased that concerns have been resolved without confrontation on a number of other campuses, such as at the University of Michigan.
The number of campuses which have asked InterVarsity to change our values and leadership standards has increased since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court verdict in the case of Christian Legal Society v. Martinez. Since that decision, InterVarsity's status as a recognized student organization has been challenged on 41 campuses. InterVarsity is currently tracking a half dozen campus access challenges, all of which involve university nondiscrimination policies limiting the freedom of InterVarsity chapters to select leaders based on religious criteria.
- Why We Fight for Campus Access by Greg Jao - Christianity Today Opinion, December 24, 2012
- Reflections on Campus Access by InterVarsity President Alec Hill, March 26, 2012
- Status of religious student groups challenged by court ruling - Desert News; July 13, 2012
- Christian lawyers challenge campus liberty restrictions - World on Campus; May 10, 2012
- Supreme Court decision upends campus religious groups - Religion News Service; May 9, 2012
- Schools work to balance gay, religious rights - Jay Lindsay, Associated Press; February 22 2012
- George Will: Does campus diversity require conformity? - Washington Post; November 2, 2011
- Anti-bias policies drive some religious groups off campuses - USA Today; April 1; 2012
- Stanford considers All Comers Policy - Stanford Review; February 22, 2012
- UNC committee won't recommend 'all-comers' policy - World on Campus; May 23, 2012
- UNC reviewing policy that protects Christian groups - World on Campus; February 24, 2012
- UNC-Greensboro club sues school over Christian group policy exclusion - Christian Post; March 2, 2012
- San Diego State University Christian fraternity appeals to U.S. Supreme Court - World on Campus; January 13, 2012
We believe that the decision in the Martinez case is much narrower than schools often realize and we hope that all of these challenges will be resolved so that our ministry on campus is not restricted. We are encouraged by the 2012 Supreme Court Decision in the case of Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although it’s a narrowly written decision, the unanimous ruling of the justices endorsed the First Amendment principle of religious organizations being free from government interference in leadership decisions.
As Justice Samuel Alito noted in his concurring opinion in the Hosanna-Tabor case, "The First Amendment protects the freedom of religious groups to engage in certain key religious activities, including the conducting of worship services and other religious ceremonies and rituals, as well as the critical process of communicating the faith. Accordingly, religious groups must be free to choose the personnel who are essential to the performance of these functions."