John K. Wilson of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) objects to the efforts of the Tennessee assembly to affirm the freedom of association of Christian groups. “In an example of terrible legislation, the Tennessee House and Senate this week approved a new law (if it’s signed by the governor) compelling public universities (and the private Vanderbilt University) to allow student groups to discriminate against students based on religious beliefs and private behavior.” Wilson writes on his academe blog. “It’s an attack on the religious liberty of individuals, and a violation of university autonomy.”
As quoted by Wilson, the law hardly sounds draconian: “A religious student organization may determine that the organization’s religious mission requires that only persons professing the faith of the group and comporting themselves in conformity with it qualify to serve as members or leaders.”
Moreover, what Wilson proposes comes across as considerably more labyrinthine: “Vanderbilt (and all the public universities in Tennessee) should create very specific rules stating that any student group wishing to have the discriminatory rules allowed by the new law must provide a specific definition of every regulated belief or activity they wish to impose on students, and include the following statement in their student organization’s constitution: ‘We hereby authorize the administration to remove any members or leaders of this student group after holding a hearing to investigate their personal beliefs and private behavior, even if banning these students is opposed by a majority of the members of this group.’”
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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