Tufts University to Reconsider Status of Christian Group

A school panel has ruled that the university failed to follow proper procedure when it "derecognized" the campus group

 
The Tufts Christian Fellowship and the Tufts University Public Relations office issued statements May 16 concerning the school's decision to overturn an earlier decision to deny the evangelical group official status because of its refusal to allow a lesbian member to assume a leadership role. Both statements follow.

Press release from the Tufts Christian Fellowship:

An appeals board of Tufts University today unanimously overturned the "derecognition" of the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF). "We are very grateful that Tufts has decisively restored religious freedom to the campus," said Curtis Chang, affiliate chaplain at Tufts and campus minister to TCF.

TCF student leaders expressed relief that they can remain on campus as a fully legitimate group. TCF student leader Sarah Janson declared, "We are so glad we can worship Jesus on campus in the fall, and we invite everyone of every sexual orientation to join us." Graduating senior Chin Park exclaimed, "I can now walk in this week's commencement exercises proudly as a Christian who belongs here!"

Students emphasized that they can now focus on carrying out the group's mission. "We're not a group hung up about demanding this or that right," explained TCF student Ohene Asare, "we're about sharing the love of God wth everyone at Tufts."

Asare also voiced hope for reconciliation with Julie Catalano, the gay student who filed the complaint that led to the expulsion of the TCF. "We've always welcomed her as a member regardless of her orientation," said Asare. "She's our friend and we hope she'll come back."

The case highlighted how colleges and universities increasingly are banning evangelical Christian groups over their religious beliefs about homosexuality. Currently, groups at Middlebury College in Vermont, Whitman College in Oregon, Grinnell College in Iowa, and Williams College in Massachusetts have been or are facing expulsion in situations identical to Tufts.

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship--the national organization overseeing TCF and the other threatened student groups--expressed hope that this trend will be reversed. Phil Evans, spokesperson for InterVarsity, commented: "These other schools should look at Tufts and realize what's obvious: that Christians shouldn't be discriminated against for their beliefs. " Chang agreed, saying, "Tufts now has a wonderful opportunity to exercise leadership on this issue and protect true religious diversity across the country."

The TCF thanked its many supporters from hundreds of alumni, parents, professors, students, public figures, and other organizations across the country. The group praised its legal counsel, David French of Cornell Law School, for his "tireless and brilliant advocacy when we were so beleaguered." TCF also emphasized the critical role played by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. "FIRE was our first and best ally--they are true and tenacious defenders of First Amendment principles at universities," declared Chang.

Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) is an inter-denominational Christian student group comprised of about 70 students. It is affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus ministry present at over 550 campuses with over 34,000 students and faculty involved. TCF has existed at Tufts University since 1960 until its recent "derecognition" in April of this year. It is one of the most active and largest religious groups at Tufts University.

Statement from the Tufts University Public Relations office.

Faculty and undergraduate students on Tufts Committee on Student Life (CSL) have ruled the Tufts Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) failed to follow proper procedure in considering the discrimination case against Tufts University Fellowship (TCF). As a result, the CSL has returned the case to the TCUJ for reconsideration in the fall semester. In the meantime, TCF has had its status as a recognized student group restored pending the case review in the fall.

In an eight-page decision, the CSL ruled solely on the process used by the TCUJ and not on the merits of the complaint against TCF. Next semester the TCUJ, with a new student membership, will again hear the complaint against TCF and issue a ruling.

On April 13, the TCUJ ruled on a student complaint of discrimination against the TCF by de-recognizing TCF. This loss of recognition meant TCF could no longer use student activity funds, no longer use the Tufts name, and had restrictions on advertising and reserving meeting space.

While the issue continues to proceed through the student judicial system, it remains inappropriate for the administration to comment on the case.

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