Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Evangelicals, Sex and Liberal Intolerance

Keith Pavlischek


May 8, 2000

Student organizations at Middlebury and Grinnell Colleges and most recently, Tufts University, have been stripped of their status as official student groups for holding an alternative view of human sexuality. What view? Do they promote the joys of "anonymous" sex," "group sex," or some unmentionable sexual perversion? Were they promoting a typical "gay" magazine, which does promote such things? No. The banned groups had the audacity to insist that their student leaders hold a much more shocking, offensive and unpopular view: that sex should be engaged in only by heterosexual married couples!

Julie Catalano, a self-professed "bisexual," had been a three-year member of the evangelical Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), a campus chapter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This year she wanted to be considered for a leadership position even though she openly dissents from TCF's biblically based stance and wants to reserve the right to pursue a lesbian relationship while in a leadership position. TCF refused.

The Tufts student government considered this perverse—not Catalano's bisexual lesbianism—but that the TCF would not let her be a leader. It voted to "derecognize" the group, yanking its funding and official status. ("Derecognize" is Orwellian newspeak for "banned.") In response to a similar situation at Middlebury, college authorities are seriously considering an official proposal that among other things says, "No student organization may discriminate on the basis of religion." Christian, Jewish and Muslim organizations must be willing to let atheists be their leaders. And these people think Bob Jones University is strange!

You might think that in a college which "celebrates diversity" and "promotes tolerance," student organizations would be encouraged to be different and to set their own criteria for leadership and membership. However, these are "progressive" private colleges. And just as evangelical Christian colleges should have the right to withhold official recognition from homosexual organizations, justice demands that these "progressive" schools should have the right to exclude views they think offensive.

But then let's clear away the cant about tolerance and diversity. These "progressive" colleges are as intolerant of orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims as evangelical Colleges are of various homosexual organizations. And they are no less "sectarian." In effect, these colleges have declared that their "progressive" and "liberal" views on human sexuality are morally superior to the deeply held, theologically-grounded teachings of orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims, such that the latter should be banned or "derecognized."

Of course, evangelical Christian colleges also "discriminate" by excluding homosexual groups from campus recognition. The difference is that "progressive" or "liberal" schools proudly advertise themselves as institutions that "celebrate diversity" and "promote tolerance." Their recent actions demonstrate that this is disingenuous propaganda, hypocrisy and false advertising. Not only are traditional religious organizations not "celebrated," these expulsions demonstrate that they aren't even "tolerated." They are literally persona non grata.

Public law and policy should not forbid "liberal" schools from discriminating against evangelical Christian organizations. (Although Tufts should be sued if it violated a pre-established contractual agreement with TCF.) But law and policy should recognize that these schools are no less narrow, particular and "sectarian" than those which "progressives" identify as narrow and sectarian. If these private colleges can discriminate against religious believers and still receive federal and state funding, tax breaks, and other governmental benefits, then Bob Jones, Wheaton, Calvin and other Christian colleges and universities should also be able to discriminate as they see fit without fear of losing the same benefits. Let's call it "celebrating diversity" in education policy!

—Keith J. Pavlischek, Fellow
   Center for Public Justice

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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”