FIRE’s important press release (highlighted by Anthony below) regarding Brown’s decision to derecognize one of the university’s largest Christian student organizations “without explanation” cannot be viewed in isolation. As PBC readers will recall, less than one month before Brown took action against the Trinity Presbyterian Church’s campus fellowship, Georgetown University (also acting through its chaplain’s office) ejected six Christian organizations from campus — also without explanation. Despite extensive negative coverage of Georgetown’s actions — and the resignation of a university chaplain in protest — these groups remain derecognized.
For some time, FIRE, the Alliance Defense Fund, and others have been decrying (and fighting) the increasing tendency of universities to “derecognize” Christian student organizations. While these actions are obviously and demonstrably the result of hostility towards theologically conservative Christians, universities have typically covered their actions by self-righteously asserting that they are merely defending and upholding so-called “anti-bias” policies. In the strange world of university logic, a religious student group that actually uses religious criteria when selecting members and leaders is “discriminatory” and must be banned. Never mind, of course, that nondiscrimination policies containing prohibitions against religious discrimination were originally designed to protect — not punish — religious students and groups.
But now at Georgetown and Brown, the emperor has no clothes. Because both schools are private, there are fewer legal protections for religious groups, and universities no longer have to manufacture legal excuses for their actions. Georgetown and Brown are not defending anti-bias policies, and they are not responding to any specific wrongdoing by the Christian organizations. While this action may be mystifying and shocking to the Christian communities at Georgetown and Brown, for many of us these summary ejections are actually quite clarifying. Sometimes individuals and groups are simply not wanted, and there can be no more clear message than “get out.”