by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Middlebury College-based poet and novelist Jay Parini shares his concerns in a CNN opinion piece about disturbing trends on American college campuses.
[T]he freedom to practice religion on campuses around the country, including at Bowdoin — an elite liberal arts college in Maine — has crashed into anti-discrimination policies, which also have a long and complicated history in this country.
The gist of the story is this: The Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, a conservative religious group that has lived quietly on campus for four decades, is being kicked off the official roster of college-backed groups. Their keys to college buildings have already been confiscated, and the administration won’t recognize them any longer. The problem is that this group, like many groups of its ilk, insist their leaders must adhere to its version of Christian doctrine.
This problem is widespread now, playing out across the country, as at Cal State and Vanderbilt, where Christian groups, including, earlier, a Roman Catholic organization at Vanderbilt, have been forced off-campus because they refuse to allow their leadership to be drawn from people who don’t adhere to their essential tenets. Let me put this plainly: Houston, we have a problem!
I’ve been a college professor for nearly four decades, and I’ve seen problems with the so-called thought police come and go over the years. At the height of the problem in the mid-’80 and ’90s, it was imagined by many — especially those on the right — that universities had become politically correct to the point where any kind of conservative thought was forbidden. …
… I’m quite appalled by what is going on at Bowdoin, Cal State, Vanderbilt and elsewhere.
Doesn’t common sense suggest that you should not be the leader of a Christian organization if you don’t adhere to Christian tenets? Would a university or college really tell the Islamic Society on campus that they can’t elect only Muslims to leadership positions? My gut tells me that it’s only sensible to allow religion organizations to elect leaders who adhere to the teachings of the religion that serves as the organizing principle for that group. …
… For the most part, conservative groups on campuses simply wish to study the Bible together, pray and worship in ways that deepen their own sense of Godliness. These groups welcome nonbelievers.
They might even let someone like myself — a Christian of a different stripe — sit down and discuss their views. A campus is, or ought to be, a space where contradictory ideas are allowed to flourish, where genuine and deeply respectful debate can occur.
Lest you think that Parini represents some rare case of a conservative on campus, follow the link above to read the rest of his column. You’ll find statements suggesting that he’s progressive and appears to hold rather stereotypical views about conservative Christians. Yet he’s still sensible enough to see through the silliness of forcing a Christian group to give up its principles at the campus door.