InterVarsity defenses vary from compromise to lawsuit depending on the campus
As Weblog has noted several times earlier, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is facing opposition on several college campuses. At some, the issue has been over sexual ethics guidelines. But more recently, the battles seem to be over whether the Christian group must allow non-Christian leaders.

The incidents have primarily played out as local stories, but the constellation of several simultaneous disputes has aroused the attention of the national media. The latest report is from Associated Press religion writer Dick Ostling.

David French, InterVarsity's lawyer (who is associated with the Alliance Defense Fund), tells the AP that the organization "seeks to settle such disputes privately and that "it almost always wins, defending its policies on the basis of religious freedom."

But it didn't win at Rutgers University, so the chapter filed suit—the first time any InterVarsity group has done so to seek access at a school.

Both InterVarsity and Rutgers have now posted defenses of their actions. The InterVarsity statement defends the lawsuit, suggesting (but not saying outright) that all other avenues were exhausted.

"InterVarsity student leaders and local staff discussed the issue with the Student Affairs Office and the Dean's Office of Rutgers University," says the statement, signed by IVCF director of public relations Phil Evans.

The local chapter moved its meetings off campus while the issue remains unresolved and has sought amicable relations with school officials. InterVarsity's legal counsel sent letters to the university outlining the First Amendment rights of the student group and offered instances where other universities have maintained the balance of religious freedom and non-discrimination without prejudicing constitutional rights of assembly or speech. … Conversations continue between the university and InterVarsity in an effort to resolve the impasse without the need to pursue the case further in the courts.

The Rutgers statement generally denies the allegations. "Rutgers has not banned the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national religious organization, from our campus, nor have we stopped a Rutgers student group named InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship from using campus facilities," writes Vice President for Student Affairs Emmet A. Dennis.

Charges that the university policy forces student groups to accept elected officers who do not share the best interests of the group are groundless. … When voting, any member is free to take into account his or her own views, religious or otherwise, as well as those of the candidates. The national religious organization is claiming that it should be able to veto the leadership elected by the student group and, until this issue can be resolved, Rutgers has suspended the distribution of student fees to the Rutgers student group. … Rutgers particularly regrets that its students have been caught in the middle of a theoretical dispute not of their making and that inaccurate and misleading information has been circulated regarding this matter.
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Generally speaking, such antagonistic volleying in anathema to InterVarsity chapters, which seek to work within secular colleges rather than against them.

In fact, the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship "will likely compromise with the administration on its doctrinal requirements for leadership positions," The Harvard Crimson reported Monday. But senior Prisca E. Shrewsbury, a member of HRCF's executive board, said a meeting with Harvard Associate Dean David P. Illingworth didn't lead to any changes in the group's constitution. "Right now, we haven't made any decisions at all," she said. "It's all very preliminary."

Meanwhile, outsiders are getting involved in the fight.

"Suppose you were a member of the officially sanctioned Dallas Cowboys Fan Club, and Jerry Jones told you that the team wouldn't continue its support unless the club chose a die-hard Washington Redskins fan as its leader," Dave Sorter, editor of the Lewisville (Tex.) Leader wrote in his paper Wedensday. "I have long been outspoken in my belief that a certain extremist minority of Christians are out to circumvent the First Amendment and establish a state religion—in fact, if not in word. … Most of extremist Christians' cries that government or other entities are trying to diminish—and even destroy—Christianity are just blather. It's all spin to further their goal of making public schools, government and all entities venues for proselytizing. But in this case, they are right on target."

A Harvard Crimson editorial, meanwhile, suggests that the school's rules may not be restrictive enough. "That HRCF may technically be within the rules only highlights the need for the College to revise those rules to ensure that groups cannot have discriminatory criteria for any positions," the paper said last Wednesday. "All students are welcome to exercise their freedom of association, as HRCF claims, but if they choose to discriminate they are not entitled to recognition as an official student group."

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More articles


Hindu attacks on missionaries:

Persecution and violence:

Church and state:

  • Ministers pray outside for meeting inside | The outside prayer before the council meeting has become a regular commitment for the pastors since the city stopped including invocations in its meetings in October, after a state appellate court ruled sectarian prayer during city meetings was unconstitutional (Ventura County [Calif.] Star)

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Politics and law:

  • In Gaia we trust | White House puts faith in EPA (Christopher C. Horner, National Review Online)

  • The spiritual politics of Martin Luther King | His concern was doing the right thing, not, as in the case with the religious right, of devising religious-based strategies to achieve wealth, power and domination over non-believers (Marty Jezer, AlterNet)

  • No more misuse of force | For the Bush administration's faith-based initiative, just getting the words right may be the difference between the success or failure of the policy (Marvin Olasky, World)

  • What about this crisis? | To Frank Wolf, the Ethiopian famine is an "opportunity" for George W. Bush (Mary McGrory, The Washington Post)

  • Christian worker fights for Sunday off | Quarry worker is also claiming, using the Human Rights Act, that Christians should have the same protection as Muslims, Jews, and Hindus who claim religious rights under the Race Relations Act (The Times, London)


  • Christian college plan approved | San Jose Christian College won't be in San Jose (Sacramento [Calif.] Bee)

  • Judson College marks its 40th year | As the Elgin college kicked off the new year with the first of several events celebrating its 40 years in existence, President Bush congratulated the institution on this milestone (The Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • Divinity school sells some treasures | Economic woes lead to sale of rare books, two residences (Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, NY)

  • Counting in all Christians | A shadow has been cast on the campus and community of Northwest Christian College (Sarah Spellman, Oregon Daily Emerald, University of Oregon)

War and U.S. foreign policy:

  • U.S. taking its case for war to Vatican | The U.S. ambassador to the Vatican will hold a forum in Rome to argue to Catholic Church officials that a pre-emptive strike in Iraq would be a "just war," a moral argument that the pope and U.S. bishops have rejected so far (The Washington Times)

  • War against Iraq still not justified, warn bishops | The bishops of the Church of England stated yesterday that precipitate military action against Iraq would be ill-judged and premature (The Guardian, London)

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  • Wide mix of faith leaders takes center stage in anti-war rally | A mix of faith leaders and organizations—with notable exceptions—is seizing a high profile in anti-war efforts (The Oregonian, Portland)

  • Religious leaders oppose war with Iraq  | About 40 people sign statement that says bombing would not bring peace to the world (The Holland [Mich.] Sentinel)

  • From Helsinki to Pyongyang | The U.S. must neither directly nor indirectly license a fragile and oppressive North Korean regime to commit heightened atrocities against its own people in exchange for yet another promise not to pose nuclear threats to the world order (Leith Anderson, William Bennett, Charles Colson, Nicholas Eberstadt, Robert George, Michael Horowitz, Max Kampelman, Penn Kemble, Dianne Knippers, Richard Land, Richard Neuhaus, Michael Novak, Marvin Olasky, Mark Palmer, Nina Shea, Radek Sikorski, and R. James Woolsey)


  • Catholics censure their bishops for appeasing Mugabe | The 260 priests, deacons, sisters and brothers of the archdiocese of Bulawayo said: "There is no place for neutrality in the face of the evil which is destroying our nation. Time has run out for compromise with an evil regime. Attempts to use personal influence and persuasion have only allowed a corrupt system to consolidate its power." (The Times, London)

  • Mugabe's bungling leaves only prayers for Zimbabweans | At the Catholic mission where Robert Mugabe once prayed, the congregation is gaunt and weary through lack of food. (The Telegraph, London)

  • Church's silence is unacceptable | The mainstream churches in Zimbabwe do not seem to carry genuine love and concern nor do they appear to have the necessary comforting interest in the welfare and well-being of their flock (The Daily News, Harare, Zimbabwe)



  • Saving souls—and society | In That Old-Time Religion, D.G. Hart explores the change in the fortunes of evangelicals, taking up in particular their engagement with an increasingly secular society (Terry Eastland, The Wall Street Journal)

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Missions and ministry:


Sexual ethics and congregational disputes:

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Church life:

Charity and donations:

  • Ministers donate to sniper victim family | Ministers from the Virginia community where a Philadelphia businessman was gunned down by a sniper delivered $17,000 in donations to the man's family Wednesday (Associated Press)

  • Burnham house is nearly finished | After five months of help from more than 300 workers and nearly 100 companies, the house that volunteers built for missionary Gracia Burnham and her family is almost complete (The Wichita Eagle)

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Vatican issues guidelines for Catholic politicians:

  • Vatican cautions faithful on laws against doctrine | The Vatican issued guidelines for Roman Catholic politicians that underlined the church's opposition to abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage and told Catholics not to promote laws that favor those practices (The New York Times)

  • Vatican encourages Christian activism | The Vatican yesterday urged Catholics worldwide to be active in politics, arguing that democracies must recognize God-given human nature and that denial of Christian activism was "a form of intolerant secularism." (The Washington Times)

  • Catholic politicians must vote in line with church's ideals, Vatican says | "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals," according to the statement, titled "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life" (Los Angeles Times)

Death penalty:

  • Big setback, and new ire, on death penalty | Still, any proposals to fundamentally change the system threaten to founder on the shoals of America's post-Sept. 11 mentality - one in which terrorists, as well as serial killers, should pay a high price for their deeds (The Christian Science Monitor)

Film and television:

Interfaith relations:

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  • Holy wars? | Islamic and Christian extremists fight a vitriolic war of words (

  • Pipe Dreams | Looking for common ground at Silver Lake's Ancient Grounds, a water-pipe café that draws Arab Christians and Muslims from all over Southern California (Adam Davidson, LA Weekly)

  • Iganga Christians, Muslims row ends | Muslims and born-again Christians in Busembatia town have resolved their two-week wrangle over the right to slaughter animals has been resolved (The Monitor, Kampala, Uganda)

Clergy sex abuse cases:

  • Church lawyers to question therapists | Three months after the Archdiocese of Boston publicly reached out to sexual abuse victims and promised to pay for their counseling, church lawyers this week began requiring therapists who have been treating the alleged victims to answer questions under oath about their patients' emotional condition (The Boston Globe)

  • Archbishop's stalker fined over breach | A woman who repeatedly stalked Melbourne's Roman Catholic Archbishop after claiming she was sexually abused by a priest was fined $100 yesterday for breaching an interim intervention order (The Age, Melbourne, Australia)

  • The Catholic Church and the insurance carriers | Why the First Amendment's religious freedom guarantees provide no defense in the clergy abuse cases (Marci Hamilton,

Other stories of interest:

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