A University Without Religious Freedom Is Not a University
Acton Institute Powerblog

A University Without Religious Freedom Is Not a University

campus-causes-traumaAround the country, Christian groups on college and universities are being told that if they want to stay on campus they must compromise their mission and principles. As Chris Lawrence of Cru notes, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill denied recognition to a Christian fraternity because it would not agree to open its membership to students of different faiths.

Because the mission of Alpha Iota Omega is to train Christian leaders, lawyers for the fraternity say UNC’s action violated the fraternity’s rights to freedom of association, freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

“They are saying that you can’t use religion as the reason for how you select the officers or leaders,” says Jordon Lorence, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, a nonprofit Christian legal group.

Attorney Lorence points out that a vegetarian group on campus holds similar membership requirements, and logically so. “In order to be part of the club, you have to agree that vegetarianism is good and eating meat is bad,” he says. “If they find out that you go home and secretly eat pork chops and Big Macs, they’ll kick you out.”

Such restrictions are not just harming Christian groups, they’re undermining the role of the university, says Grant Jones:

Universities that inhibit freedom of religion inhibit freedom of thought. Therefore, whether intentionally or not, these institutions place a strict limit on the amount of wisdom their students can acquire through their academic pursuits and fail in their fundamental societal purpose. Universities that limit soul freedom through the restriction of freedom of religion limit their student’s humanity. And by curtailing religious freedom in any capacity, they in essence redefine higher education as higher recitation and demonize contemplation of our most fundamental human question: Why are we here?

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Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).