InterVarsity Alumni - David French

David French first connected with InterVarsity as a student at Harvard Law School. The regular Christian fellowship helped keep his faith sharp and encourage his spirit as he met the challenges of one of the most academically rigorous programs in the country.

In recent years David has been keeping his legal skills sharp representing InterVarsity in defense of basic First Amendment rights to the freedom of worship and association on college campuses. InterVarsity chapters on eight campuses have been threatened with removal from campus in one way or another. In two instances David filed federal lawsuits on behalf of InterVarsity.

In 2000 at Tufts University, in 2003 at Rutgers University, and in 2006 at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, David won agreements from university officials to rescind their restrictions on InterVarsity activities on campus. As the director of the Alliance Defense Fund’s Center for Academic Freedom, David was called upon more and more frequently to help Christian student organizations as they were restricted from meeting just as freely on campus, and with the same rights, as other student groups. He believes that the issue of students’ freedom to worship on campus will ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court within the next five years.

David said the challenges facing Christians on the college campus are exemplified by the Duke LaCrosse scandal. Speaking at a chapel service at InterVarsity’s National Service Center, David said that the Duke LaCrosse story portrayed the hedonism and intellectual tyranny that is all too common on campus today.

“The whole incident started with a strip party,” he said. “That’s morally wrong. But once the legal situation clarified, all criticism of their behavior dropped away. It illustrates the fact that universities are the most hedonistic part of the American subculture.”

Unrestricted sexual behavior that would be considered immoral in the rest of society is considered normal on most college campuses. In addition, binge drinking is epidemic on many college campuses. But colleges seem powerless to do anything to control alcohol consumption.

“Churches spend huge amounts of money on youth ministry but once students get on campus, and away from home and church, they are encouraged to indulge in everything they’ve been warned against,” David observed. “It takes a great amount of character to resist.”

As for the intellectual bias that pervades many college campuses, David noted that 88 Duke faculty members signed an open letter in a student newspaper that sided with the accusers against the LaCrosse players. Later, when the charges against the LaCrosse players were dropped, these faculty members refused to withdraw their statement.

“My favorite statement is that there’s more intellectual diversity in the typical suburban megachurch than among ivy league faculty,” David said. “There are speech codes at 69 percent of U.S. universities. One school actually acted to withhold a degree from a student who objected to same sex marriage.”

David referred to research by the Barna Group showing a majority of students raised in Christian homes falling away from faith during their college years. “The university presents these young people with a hedonistic environment and allows discussion of only one side of important moral and spiritual issues,” David said. “Something is happening here that’s of serious concern.”

Observing InterVarsity’s stance in favor of moral purity and intellectual integrity, David added “it’s hardly surprising that InterVarsity has problems on some campuses.”

He also said that in order to truly help students, both hedonism and intellectual bias need to be addressed, not just one or the other. “The conservative movement is counter productive in this area,” he said. “It focuses on political correctness and laughs at morals. On the other hand there are religious people who often emphasize moral issues and do not understand the problem of intellectual bias.”

David described a national study of campus anti-Semitism that discovered very limited bias against Jews, but in fact found that 53 percent of professors have a negative view of evangelicals. “Christians can sometimes disarm their critics by becoming the model of intellectual openness that colleges should be,” he said. “But there will always be opponents.”

David French is helping to make sure that InterVarsity gets a fair hearing when opponents question our right to be on campus.

Click here to hear more from David French in an InterVarsity interview. Time: 11:42