How would the American Jewish community react if, at a prestigious college someplace, the Hillel society were thrown off campus?
Picture the scene: Hillel includes Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox groups. The Orthodox group --following the Orthodox interpretation of Halakah, Jewish law--refuses to allow mixed seating at services and refuses to allow women to lead services. Worse yet, it refuses to allow a leader of a male homosexual group on campus to lead services or run for Hillel president, claiming that homosexuality is absolutely forbidden by the Torah and having a homosexual student as an officer of Hillel would violate the basic principles of the group. The student senate meets, sees that these positions violate campus nondiscrimination codes, and throws the Jewish group out. Henceforth, it may not use any campus facility for services or meetings, or use the campus post office or e-mail to distribute notices, and it loses any campus funding it may have had.
Far-fetched? Not at all, for similar things are happening to Christian groups on many campuses. Evangelical organizations that will not permit homosexual activists to run for leadership positions are charged with discrimination, found guilty, and thrown off the campus. Most recently, this happened at Tufts University in Massachusetts, where last spring the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) was railroaded out of town. The unseemly and unjust haste with which this was done also violated campus codes of conduct, so the decision was reversed on procedural grounds. But in late October, TCF was finally convicted of discrimination and placed on probation. The same issues have arisen at Middlebury, Whitman, and Williams colleges, and many others.
What was TCF's crime? Sticking to a biblical view, it refused to allow a campus homosexual leader to run for president of the club, stating that this would clearly violate basic precepts the group stands for. If a religious group wants to maintain centuries-old traditions, is this bigotry? Does the current drive for gay rights trump everything, including religion?
In fact, what they wanted was to protect their racism behind a privacy claim, and as a nation we rejected their stand. Today, no college would permit a campus Ku Klux Klan group to keep black students out of their organization, claiming the right to free private association. No college would permit a campus group to hide behind religion and practice bigotry. And no college should allow student groups to discriminate against homosexuals, blacks, Jews, Catholics, or anyone else.
Obviously, the claims of religious groups are sometimes viewed in the same way those of racist groups were seen: subterfuges for bigotry, which must fall to civil rights claims from homosexual groups.
But is the analogy fair? Should a Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish group (or for that matter, Muslim, Hindu, or any other) holding fast to its religion's traditional views and practices regarding relations between men and women, and regarding homosexuality, be treated like moral lepers? Are traditional Christianity and traditional Judaism fairly treated as forms of bigotry that must be expelled from college campuses?
That is certainly the message some colleges risk sending. Under the decision at Tufts, if TCF sticks to its biblical view of homosexuality it will likely be thrown off campus again. The message will go forth to evangelical students: "Stay away. You are not wanted here. Tufts sees evangelical Protestantism as a form of bigotry. Go to Bob Jones University, where you belong."
Nowadays, colleges are desperately seeking "diversity," but the message will be that this is one form of diversity no longer welcome at Tufts and at other campuses that follow the same path. And this is what people call liberal arts colleges?
Yale could have accommodated them easily but chose not to. The message was, again, "Stay away. At Yale we do not want this kind of diversity." It seems that there are favored diversity claims on campuses today, and disfavored-even forbidden-claims. Today, the homosexual claim is welcomed, while the traditional religious claim is viewed with great suspicion. It is an amazing turn of events, considering that most of our great universities were founded by people of deep (and traditional!) religious faith.
Less amazing is the reaction, thus far, of the American Jewish community to these early stages of the battle between gay rights and traditional religion on campus. At Yale, the Orthodox students were essentially abandoned by non-Orthodox Jewish organizations and seen as ghetto-type Jews whose ridiculous old views on sex were an embarrassment. At Tufts, no Jewish group has risen to defend the religious rights of TCF. But this battle will be fought on campus after campus in the coming years, and "liberal" elite colleges, where it is most likely to be fought, are precisely the campuses with substantial Jewish populations. So now is the time for Jewish groups to debate the issue and decide whether their own religion, like that of TCF, must give way to the current "diversity" monitors and the powerful drive to protect homosexual students against discrimination.
Should Orthodox Jews give up Harvard and Yale and Tufts and Williams, and head off for Yeshiva University? Should evangelicals all go to Bob Jones? Notre Dame for orthodox Catholics? Is that what liberal education in America will come to? So much for diversity, when it comes to opposing any claim by a homosexual group?
It would be a great irony if, in the end, the same colleges that had Jewish quotas until 50 years ago now kept certain Jews away once again. Oh, they admitted the right kind of Jew back then before World War II, the German Jew with "good breeding," and just kept the wrong sort of fellow out. Now, the right kind of Jew may turn out to be the nonpracticing or secular Jew, and the wrong sort the Orthodox man and woman who will "make trouble" about co-ed dorms and homosexual rights. And, saddest of all, this is called progress.