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Monday, April 2, 2012

Religious Freedom and public colleges

According to today's USA Today, Vanderbilt University's non-discrimination policy has got a faith-base group in a bind.  Vanderbilt Catholic, a 500-member group, is being asked by Vanderbilt University to let anyone run for leadership, not just Catholics.  P.J. Jedlovec, the president of Vanderbilt Catholic, says, "If we were open to having non-Catholics lead the organization, we wouldn't be Catholic anymore" (Smietana, Bob, "Vanderbilt bias policy drives groups off campus", USA Today, Monday 2 April 2012, 3A).

This attempt to shut down religion in public life has happened elsewhere on college campuses throughout the United States.  "The University of North Carolina-Greensboro refused to recognize a Christian group called Make Up Your Mind because it discriminated on the basis of faith for leaders.  The school relented after being sued" (Ibid.).

Apparently, the aforementioned colleges do not understand either the Constitution of the United States or the fact that not letting someone into leadership because one doesn't qualify is not discrimination.  Let us look at look at the Constitution itself for an example.  Article II, section 1 of the Constitution reads, "No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States."  Does this mean that the United States is discriminating against, say, a Canadian-born, naturalized-American citizen who is 34 years of age and wants to run for the Presidency?  No!  That person could never run for it, because, even after he turns 35, he is not a natural-born citizen.  Is this discrimination?  Not in the least!!

Let's take The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as another example.  In July of 2009, "Derek Jones and his partner, Matthew Aune, were holding hands as they passed through the pedestrian mall east of the Salt Lake Temple as they returned home from a concert at the Gallivan Center.  Aune hugged and kissed Jones in the plaza, at which point church security asked the men to leave because they were being inappropriate" (Norlen, Clayton, "2 men cited in trespassing on LDS Plaza", Deseret News, 11 July 2009).  Was the LDS Church being discriminatory when they asked these persons to leave the LDS-owned Main Street Plaza (private property) because they were violating Church teachings?  No!  It is not discrimination to have policies, laws, and rules.

Is it discrimination if I am pulled over by a Black cop in Harlem because I run a red light?  No!  I broke the law, and should pay the penalty.  Laws, especially Constitutional laws, exists to keep all people safe.  Hence, Vanderbilt University is in the wrong for kicking the group Vanderbilt Catholic off of campus, because Vanderbilt Catholic clearly was exercising Constitutional law.

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