WSJ excerpt by John Murray
Last week, Tennessee legislators sent a message to Vanderbilt University: Religious liberty matters. Large majorities in both houses passed a bill to prohibit the school from interfering in the ability of student groups to select their own leaders and members, define their own doctrines and resolve their own disputes—or Vanderbilt risks losing $24 million in state funding.
The legislation follows Vanderbilt’s decision to stop recognizing campus religious organizations that require their leaders to accept certain religious beliefs on which they are founded. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Vanderbilt Catholic, Navigators and other groups—ministering to about 1,500 students—would effectively be moved off campus in the name of “nondiscrimination.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has stated that although he opposes Vanderbilt’s policy, he plans to veto the bill because it is “inappropriate for government to mandate the policies of a private institution.” (Thirty-six members of Congress have urged the university to reconsider, stating that its exemption of fraternities and sororities but not religious groups “suggests hostility on the part of Vanderbilt toward religious student groups.”)
Ironically, the very freedom Vanderbilt administrators have to make their unfortunate decision derives from a 19th-century Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of Christian colleges such as Vanderbilt, founded under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873. …
A similar blessing took place this spring at Vanderbilt. Student leaders of the 13 religious organizations opposing the school’s policy began meeting at least twice a month to pray together. As World on Campus reported, “Even if they don’t succeed in persuading administrators to rescind the policy, [one student leader said he] believes they’ve already won the spiritual battle and learned the lesson God was trying to teach.” …
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