Colleges should be celebrating students with a purity standard — not punishing them! Yet that’s exactly what Harvard University is doing to a Christian group on campus. Administrators have decided that living out the tenets of your faith will cost you — in this case, a year-long probation.
It started in September when members of the Harvard College of Faith & Action (HCFA) confronted one of its assistant Bible course leaders about her new relationship. She’d said she’d finally found someone who makes her “laugh, feel safe… and challenges her to be a better person.” “There was just one catch,” the Crimson explained, “this person was a girl.” After sitting down and talking through the situation, members of the group decided to ask her to step down from her leadership role.
Since then, HCFA has come under intense attack from Harvard administration, who decided to put the club on a year-long probation, the first in the school’s history. “If the club reregisters as a student organization next spring, it will have to show that it is in compliance with the university’s ‘nondiscrimination principles,” a spokesman said. Arguing that the fellowship’s decision was “grossly inconsistent” with its student handbook, “which stipulates recognized campus student groups cannot discriminate on the basis of ‘sexual orientation.'”
Group co-presidents Scott Ely and Molly Richmond say nothing could be farther from the truth. “We reject any notion that we discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in our fellowship,” they wrote in an email. “Broadly speaking, the student in this case was removed because of an irreconcilable theological disagreement pertaining to our character standards.” HCFA’s guiding principles are clear that any extramarital sexual activity is wrong. “Our theological view is that — for professing Christians who are in leadership — celibacy is the only option outside the bounds of marriage. We have applied and do apply this policy regardless of sexual orientation.”
Our nation is desperate for young people with solid, moral principles — and this is how we treat them? It’s a sad commentary on the state of our culture that one of the most prestigious colleges in America doesn’t grasp the concept of religious freedom. For now, these students are getting quite a lesson in what’s awaiting them in the world, where religious groups everywhere are having to fight for the right to apply their standards. And while Ely and Richmond may not have school administrators in their corner, they have something far more important: the Constitution.
This is exactly the scenario Congress’s Higher Education Act tries to avoid. A powerful defense of free speech and free assembly, the bill “addresses a common college practice — requiring religious student groups that want school funds or meeting space to admit any student, regardless of their faith, and to grant them all the same access to leadership positions.” Although the measure would apply to public universities, it makes it quite clear that harassment like Harvard’s won’t be tolerated.
While they consider their next move, we applaud these seniors for their courage and pray that the decision to stand for truth helps other students do the same!
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