Vanderbilt Commons.

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Vanderbilt University has recently been “investigating” Christian groups on campus after an openly homosexual member of a Christian organization was expelled, not for being homosexual, but for openly stating that practicing homosexuality is morally acceptable. That belief violated the organization’s constitution. Such an attitude by Vanderbilt’s administration reflects a bias in academia as a whole, with the exception of those Christian schools who still remain traditional (and which are becoming fewer in number) against traditional Christianity. Many people in academia hate (and that word is not too strong) the moral views of traditional Christians: their opposition to abortion, to practicing homosexuality, to premarital sex, to a hedonistic lifestyle. The academics claim to be open minded and tolerant, but their open mindedness and tolerance ends at the door of traditional morality and religion.

I attended Vanderbilt from 1986-87 as a student in the Graduate Department of Religion. Conservative Christian students lived in fear of saying something that offended theologically¬† and morally liberal faculty members. I found the atmosphere far more stifling and intolerant than the very traditional Churches of Christ religion in which I was reared. If I talked to a traditional student about the bodily resurrection of Christ or about traditional sexual morality, the student would often look around, put his finger to his mouth, and say “Shhh…. you want to remain a student here, don’t you?” Even Professor James Barr, certainly no Fundamentalist or Evangelical, said in his parting article in The Spire, Vanderbilt Divinity School‘s newsletter, that there was closed-mindedness from the theological left at Vanderbilt. Although the philosophy department was a bit more open-minded, it was still hostile to traditional Christian moral positions on sexual ethics. It is no surprise, then, that the Vanderbilt administration shares such hostility and is willing to enforce it by discrimination against Christian groups’ rights to determine which members meet their standards.

If a student wanted to join a chess club but openly argued that a knight should move like a bishop and vice-versa, and then tried to use that rule in the games he played, any self-respecting chess club would expel that member for violating the standards of chess. In religion, however, both secular agnostic and atheistic university administrators as well as liberal administrators of all faiths, refuse to allow traditional Christian groups the same privilege. Would the administration be consistent and investigate Muslim or Orthodox Jewish groups who also accept traditional moral values? Or is it only traditional Christianity that is the target of administrative ire?

Concerned alumni who disagree with these administrative moves at Vanderbilt (and at other colleges and universities) need to speak up–and if the administration ignores them, to talk with their closed wallets. Legal measures are also an option, as well as communicating what is happening to other traditionalist of all religious stripes as well as to sympathetic secular people who recognize the academic totalitarianism in the attack on Christian organizations. A strong, concerted, and consistent response is essential to keep administrators in line with their supposed commitment to freedom of speech and religion.

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