Professor: Vanderbilt Univ. 'Suppressing' Christians

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Christian groups at Vanderbilt University say they are being unfairly targeted because of their membership requirements.

The Nashville school, located in the heart of the Bible Belt, has put four groups on provisional status because their bylaws include requirements like Bible study and worship.

The trouble began after an openly gay student told school officials he was kicked out of the Christian fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi last year.

Vanderbilt officials then launched a review to make sure all student groups were abiding by its non-discrimination policy.

"One of the requirements to be a registered student organization at Vanderbilt is that student organizations' constitutions be in compliance with the university's non-discrimination policy, and that they sign a statement that they will comply," Vanderbilt officials said in a statement.

But the policy doesn't protect religious groups, making it against the rules to have specific requirements like only Christian leaders in Christian organizations.

Political science and law professor Carol Swain is faculty advisor for Vanderbilt's Christian Legal Society, one of the groups under provision.

"I think that the policy is totally irrational in that it's geared towards suppressing religious groups, especially evangelical Christians," she told CBN News.

Four Vanderbilt students spoke to CBN News about their reaction to the non-discrimination issue.  Watch their comments below.

"It's specifically being applied in a way that Bible studies are jeopardized, worship services," Swain added. "I mean, these are things that Christians do -- not any other groups on campus."

In a statement, Vanderbilt assured that the university is "exploring" the concerns that Christian organizations have with the non-discrimination policy.

Since the investigation began, 32 of the school's 36 religious groups have been found in compliance with the rule.

Justin Gunter, president of the CLS chapter, said he was shocked when the school brought up the issue since there seems to be so much religious diversity and acceptance on campus.

"Up until now, the campus had been very welcoming of religious individuals," he explained.

"These rules essentially will reduce the religious diversity on campus overall," Gunter said. "Religious groups now can't even say that we want a Christian group to be led by a Christian, a Muslim group to be led by a Muslim."

Vanderbilt was founded by the Methodist Church and some feel the requirements defy the school's religious history.

"If you look at many, if not most, of the great universities across the nation, they were founded by deeply religious men," Swain explained. "They were set up as deeply religious institutions, and one by one, they are gradually moving away from that."

Vanderbilt officials said they just want to be sure all students can participate in the organizations that interest them.

But Swain said she feels this is part of a deeper issue of forcing Christians to compromise their beliefs and integrity.

In her book Be the People, she warned that cases like this are pushing America further from its religious roots.

"When you think about the parents, they're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to send their children off to be educated," Swain said. "And what's happening on these campuses in many ways is geared towards destroying their faith."

This isn't the first time Vanderbilt has been criticized for its efforts to be all-inclusive. Earlier this year, the university also made the decision to recognize Wiccan holidays.

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Cicely Gosier

Cicely Gosier

CBN News Internet Producer

Cicely Gosier is an Internet News Producer at CBN News, and enjoys reporting on humanitarian efforts, as well as issues involving the family and today's youth.

Cicely obtained a M.A. in Journalism from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., and her B.A. in Print Journalism from Hampton University in Hampton, Va. She is also a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.