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Tufts student government votes to 'de-recognize' evangelical group

Posted by Your Town  October 26, 2012 05:58 PM

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The student government at Tufts University has taken measures to “de-recognize” an evangelical group on campus, because the group requires its leaders to adhere to the “basic Biblical truths of Christianity,” student government members said on Friday.

The Tufts Community Union Judiciary, which is the judicial branch of student government, voted last week to de-recognize the Tufts Christian Fellowship InterVarsity, Tufts officials said in a statement, though the University would not comment on why the judiciary voted for the group to lose its status as an official organization.

The Tufts Christian Fellowship constitution requires that its leaders are dedicated to “basic Biblical truths,” such as believing in only one God, and in Jesus Christ.

Kimberly Thurler, a spokeswoman for the University, said in an email statement that the Tufts Christian Fellowship has not been banned from Tufts, and it still has all of its rights and privileges, such as funding from the student government, and will continue to have those rights pending the outcome of an appeal. TCF can appeal the decision to the Committee on Student Life, which is a standing committee of the faculty.

“This is a complex matter that involves deeply held values such as freedom of religion and non-discrimination,” Thurler said in the statement. “We are committed to addressing this in a thoughtful way and no decisions have been made at this time.”

If the decision were upheld, the TCF would lose its funding from the student government and permission to use the Tufts name, according to members of the student judiciary. They will still be allowed to meet on campus and can still be affiliated with the Chaplaincy.

The vote to de-recognize was reported earlier this week by the Tufts Daily.

Greg Bodwin, Vice-Chair of the Tufts Community Union Judiciary said that the TCF’s leadership requirement violates the discriminatory clause of the Tufts student constitution and that they are the only group to have such a requirement.

“What is not okay is to codify that requirement in a way that cannot be changed,” he said.

Adam Sax, Chair of the Tufts Community Union Judiciary, agreed.

“They need to play by the same rules,” Sax said.

The Tufts Chaplaincy, which handles religious organization on campus, said in a statement that they are supporting both students and administration to resolve the situation.

“Tufts University is committed to religious freedom and a vibrant spiritual life on campus as well as its policy against discrimination,” the statement said.

TCF is the Tufts Chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship /USA, an evangelical campus mission serving students and faculty at colleges across the US.

Greg Jao, a spokesman for the InterVaristy Christian Fellowship organization, said the group is intending to appeal the decision, and that they are hopeful the Committee on Student Life will rule in their favor.

“We think it is just common sense,” he said.

According to TCF’s constitution, they are a non-denominational evangelical group of Tufts students.

The constitution states that “leaders of TCF (1) should support and advocate for the letter and spirit of TCF’s Basis of Faith and (2) in response to God’s Love, Grace and Truth should seek to exemplify Christ-like characteristics such as humility, honesty, racial reconciliation, concern for the poor and oppressed of society, sacrificial love, sexual chastity, respect for lawful authority, respect for biblical authority, and integrity, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Jao said the Beelzebubs, Tufts' all-male a cappella group, is the perfect example of why student organizations should be able to be somewhat selective.

“Clearly [the Beelzebubs are] gender exclusive,” he said. “We celebrate that because they’re doing male a cappella. They’re adding something unique to Tufts.”

Jao said he hopes the committee will recognize that the TCF is not trying to be discriminatory in its policy.

“We really affirm the student government to have a diverse and tolerant environment on campus,” Jao said. “That’s something we want as well.”

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