‘All comers’ idea for campus leadership is not always welcome: Survey

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A group of student involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. Photo courtesy of Sonoma State Star

A group of student involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. Photo courtesy of Sonoma State Star

A group of student involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. Photo courtesy of Sonoma State Star

A group of student involved with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. Photo courtesy of Sonoma State Star

A trend on college campuses this past year goes by inviting slogan “all comers.” But even as the school year winds up, the controversy around “all comers” does not.

The idea is that college groups, including religious organizations, at publicly funded schools should allow “all comers” – no matter their faith or whether they are LGBT — in leadership if they want the funding and facilities offered recognized student groups.

However, a new LifeWay Research survey, released Tuesday (May 5), finds it’s not necessarily popular with all — or even most — Americans. They don’t want groups kicked off campus for clinging to their religious doctrinal views.

The survey was conducted in September, just weeks after an evangelical student group, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship lost recognition at 23 California college campuses after refusing to sign a required non-discrimination policy. The group does not permit non-Christians, gays and lesbians in leadership roles.

So far, InterVarsity’s 860 chapters have run into trouble with the “all comers” rules on more than 40 college campuses including Vanderbilt University, Rollins College and Tufts University.

LifeWay looked into the issue because of concern that “as ‘all-comers’ policies move from ivory tower campuses into society, watch for Christian groups churches to be among the first challenged for limiting membership and leadership only to believers,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

In a phone survey of 1000 U.S. adults, LifeWay asked,  “Should student religious organizations, recognized by publicly-funded colleges, be allowed to require their leaders to hold specific beliefs?” Results were close: 48 percent said no and 46 percent said yes.

But if the same question was asked about private colleges, the answers shifted: 51 percent would favor letting groups set religious requirements for leadership roles and 44 percent would not.

The all-comers controversies are about behavior as well as belief, particularly about access to campus facilities for groups that refuse –generally on religious grounds – to allow gay and lesbian student leaders.

Only 38 percent say colleges “should only provide funding or meeting space to student organizations that allow gay and lesbian students to be in leadership roles” while 57 percent said schools should not make this a requirement.

However, when Lifeway asked if religious groups should be exempt from a requirement to permit LGBT student leaders, nearly one in three (29 percent) of those who favor the requirement would exempt religious organizations.

The survey was  conducted September 19-28 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

It shows, “one person’s tolerance is another’s restriction. And one person’s religious freedom is another’s inappropriate discrimination,” said Stetzer. “We’re headed for a showdown over religion and rights — and it’s coming faster than anyone imagined… Indeed, tolerance of those whose religious views we find intolerant will test society’s tolerance in challenging ways.”

 

 

  • Larry

    ” a new LifeWay Research survey”

    Never a good sign.

    LifeWay is a media outlet for the Southern Baptist Convention. There is nothing objective about the way it conducts surveys or claims its findings.

    “They don’t want groups kicked off campus for clinging to their religious doctrinal views.”

    This is an especially galling misrepresentation of issues involved. InterVarsity has never been threatened with being kicked off of public campuses. They were excluded from entitlement to student funds for their failure to abide by the rules associated with them. What every student organization does in order to receive such funding. This includes ALL other campus religious organizations.

    The Christian organization wants to be treated as an exception to rules barring discrimination and access to public funds. Their discriminatory practices do not require public funding.

    Christian privilege writ large. Its offensive to notions of religious liberties.

  • Paolo Romano

    You say…”There is nothing objective about the way it conducts surveys or claims its findings.”

    That’s a pretty inflammatory statement from even a big mouth like you. Dare to share your proof?

  • Larry

    Inflammatory, sure. But that doesn’t make a word of it untrue.

    Do you have something else besides self-righteous indignation? Feel free to bring in claims to the contrary. LifeWay are a publishing company affiliated with the SBC. It appeals to ultra-conservative Christians. Anyone can look that one up.

    This survey is an attempt to spin bad PR away by setting up strawman issues and questions.

    Somehow InterVarsity can’t follow the same rules, on public colleges all though the country, which are followed by Hillels, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist Student Unions or even the Campus Crusade for Christ. So this is somehow a campus vs. religion thing? No.

    They are entitled to stay on campus, but not to receive student funding. That is unless they are willing to abide by the rules every other student organization does to claim such funding.

  • Well, no, Larry, they’re not entitled to stay on campus. With the loss of student funding, they also can’t use meeting places on campus. Here is what was decided at Tufts re the IVCF chapter there:
    According to the Tufts Daily, judiciary chair Adam Sax said TCF will “lose the right to use the Tufts name in its title or at any activities, schedule events or reserve university space through the Office for Campus Life and request and receive funding.”
    And if you can’t have your event on campus, you might as well not exist if you want to attract students – who often don’t have cars – to your event.
    Also, have any gay-lesbian folks tried attaining to the leadership of a Muslim or orthodox Jewish group? Am waiting for a reporter to follow that one up. What Islam has to say about homosexuality is similar to what Christians and Jews believe (that is, those of them who adhere to their religion’s holy texts).

  • Larry

    Tufts University is a private school. It does not apply in the question posed:
    ““Should student religious organizations, recognized by publicly-funded colleges

    You are also misstating the situation. The Office of Campus Life (and its equivalents in other schools) is meant for handling organizations funded by the student activities fees tacked on to tuition. All students have to pay this fee. As such, all students are entitled to be members of the organizations it funds.

    There are other means of organizing events and meetings on campus. Fact of the matter is EVERY OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUP ON CAMPUS was willing to follow the rules that InterVarsity claims should not apply to them.

    “Also, have any gay-lesbian folks tried attaining to the leadership of a Muslim or orthodox Jewish group? ”

    None of them have rules discriminating against people who would attempt such a thing. Hence, they have student activity fee funding.

  • Bill

    Have you examined Lifeway’s research methodology? A lot of their findings don’t necessarily back up the “company line”. I find their research arm to be very sound. They use that research to know their market for sales. Counterproductive for their research arm to not know the real situation in the culture.