This week, Texas A&M agreed to recognize Freshman Leaders in Christ (FLiC) for the upcoming school year. University officials had officially denied recognition because the group limited its membership to freshman Christians. After an exceedingly cordial and open discourse with FLiC, the university reversed course. A&M should be applauded for two reasons.
First, unlike many universities, A&M did not behave like a university on a quest to limit student rights. Rather, it first maintained its position primarily because it believe federal law compelled it. When it later understood (after university counsel involvement) that there was no such federal requirement, the university changed its position — choosing to exercise its discretion in favor of the students, not against them.
Second, the university understood that not all religious organizations exist for the same purpose. It is often difficult for university officials to understand why different religious groups may maintain different standards for membership and leadership. As more than one university administrator has said to me, “The campus [fill in the blank mainline denomination] is open to everyone, why isn’t your client?” Aside from the profound theological differences that exist within Christendom, theologically similar groups can have different purposes. Groups designed to “disciple” are different from groups designed to evangelize, and these can be different from “service” or “activist” oriented organizations. The bottom line is that the mission and purpose of any given group is up to the group, not the administration.
Well done, Texas A&M. I wish other universities shared your respect for student free association.