The Need for Active Christian Faculty
There are at least two ways to promote diversity on campus: to allow any group to form on campus, or to force all groups on campus to allow anyone into their group. Which one do you think allows for the most vibrant discussion and sharing of diverse viewpoints? Which one do you think campus administrators favor? Finally, which one is most consistent with the First Amendment’s guarantee of the right of the people peaceably to assemble?
(For clarity, “freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests.”)
Last year, the Supreme Court decided that Hastings Law School in California had the right to force the Christian Legal Society (CLS), an officially recognized student group, to allow non-Christians to be officers. This year, Vanderbilt University is trying to do the same thing.
The Vanderbilt case started last year when a complaint arose from a student claiming to have been kicked out of a Christian fraternity because he was openly gay. This led the university to re-examine the constitutions of all 300 organizations, putting a dozen on provisional status for violating their non-discrimination policy. Only five were religiously affiliated (and the article doesn’t state the nature of the other seven), and one of them was Vanderbilt’s CLS.
Law Professor Carol Swain is the group’s CLS advisor (and member of Faculty Commons ministry), and she is working hard to advocate for the group.
And this is where the importance of a bold and active Christian faculty is demonstrated. Even law students are just that, students. They don’t usually have the experience and connections within the administration to try to work things out. They don’t have the protection that tenure offers.
Thus, Christian student groups have need for faculty advisors who can and are willing to advise and advocate for them should they find themselves afoul of extreme interpretations of university policy. Furthermore, there is patently the need for there to be recognized official Christian faculty groups on campuses to stand alongside student groups in advocating for reason and common sense to prevail.
Sure, God can act without our assistance—He’s God. But why then has he placed us as faculty in such strategic positions of influence? It is reminiscent of the Biblical account of Queen Esther, who was called out of hiding her faith to stand up when her people (the Jews) were threatened by sanctioned genocide. Her uncle challenged her to consider that she was given her position exactly “for such a time as this.” She agreed, and responded, “If I perish, I perish.”
Thankfully, we aren’t in danger of execution. Therefore, we must consider--are our careers or reputations more important than our lives?
Later this week, I will give an analysis I wrote to some friends at the time of the Hastings case going up before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.