April 12, 2012
A coalition of 11 Christian student groups at Vanderbilt University are insisting they should be allowed to choose their leaders based on shared faith and not the university's "all-comers" policy, the Religion News Service reports. The groups, which are calling themselves Vanderbilt Solidarity, joined together to oppose the university's policy that campus groups, and their leadership positions, must be open to all students; the religious groups say they cannot be led by students who do not share or profess their group's faith. "Until recently, Vanderbilt explicitly protected the freedom of all student organizations to select members and leaders who shared and supported the group's purpose, including -- for religious groups -- its faith," the Solidarity groups said Monday. Stating that the policy violates "the central tenets of our faith," the religious groups applied for registered status on campus, but included their own constitutions containing faith-based requirements for leadership positions. If the school does not recognize the constitutions, the groups would be considered unregistered next year. Solidarity's decision comes two weeks after the campus Catholic group, Vanderbilt Catholic, decided not to register as an official student organization because of the policy. Beth Fortune, vice chancellor for public affairs, said the university stood behind its policy. "This debate is about nondiscrimination, not religious freedom," she said.