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InterVarsity Christian Fellowship loses official CSU status

The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship lost official recognition as an organization from the California State University this fall after the CSU identified what it called discrimination in the club’s bylaws.

InterVarsity, as a result, lost its access to certain benefits at CSU campuses, CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said.

According to the InterVarsity bylaws, the leaders of the campus club must “subscribe” to the beliefs that there exists “eternally” only one, true god as the “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and Jesus Christ is humanity’s “Savior and Lord.”

“By doing so…that indicates that you are a Christian,” Uhlenkamp said. “By doing so, that’s discriminatory.”

The CSU chapters of InterVarsity were given a year to amend the contents of the discriminatory bylaws in August 2013 in order to comply with non-discriminatory CSU policies, Uhlenkamp said.

According to the 2011 Executive Order 1068 that was installed by the 2012-13 school year, the former CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed implemented an “all comers” policy to try to make the CSU’s policies more parallel to federal and state non-discriminatory policies.

Uhlenkamp said that before the 2011 order, some InterVarsity chapters did not require member leaders to sign a statement of faith.

“Only when we went into the idea that it’s an ‘all comers’ policy did they then insert that statement of faith requirement,” he said.

InterVarsity campus intern at CSULB Daniel Lee Allen said that throughout the CSU campuses, not all of InterVarsity’s chapters originally had that clause. In CSULB’s case, the clause had always been there. Allen said inserting that clause “was a response” to the 2011 executive order.

President of CSULB’s InterVarsity chapter Bailee Campbell, who leads roughly 150 members, said that InterVarsity refused to comply with the executive order due to “religious integrity,” even though a non-Christian wanting to become an InterVarsity officer is unlikely.

Campbell said the CSULB InterVarsity’s statement of faith clause that requires a Christian officer is “just in case that were to happen.”

Other clubs, such as the Muslim club, are experiencing similar issues as InterVarsity, Campbell said.

CSULB’s InterVarsity faculty adviser Grant Hill, whose brother is the InterVarsity national president, said it’s a “tough situation” for religious organizations because the all-comers policy may not work for everyone.

“We see that really as an infringement on religious liberties,” Hill said, and that government is trying to “tamper” with and “exert influence on religious organizations.”

“It’s just really inappropriate,” he said.

Consequently, Hill said that these religious clubs chose to give up their club status for these reasons.

Among the benefits of being recognized as an official CSU club, InterVarsity no longer qualifies for Associated Students Inc. funding, financial advising and outreach opportunities, Uhlenkamp said.

“The access, I think, to ASI funding is the biggest issue,” Uhlenkamp said.

Uhlenkamp said that part of the ASI funding comes from student fees, and when InterVarsity requires a statement of faith, they are collecting money from students who are potentially being discriminated against.

Some CSU campus InterVarsity chapters have lost access to free facility usage, according to the CSU’s blog.

“There are also campuses that do not charge any facility fee regardless of recognition status, as long as the group is comprised mostly of students,” according to the blog. However, at the CSULB campus, that was not the case.

InterVarsity staff member, Sarah Groot, who manages CSULB’s InterVarsity’s finances, said her chapter paid $3,500 for facility usage for five weeks this fall. She also said that InterVarsity at CSULB has not appealed for funding from ASI before. The only funding they receive from CSULB was in the form of a free classroom and “tabling.”

Groot said that the funding was allocated through donations.

There are over 900 InterVarsity chapters on nearly 600 campuses nation-wide and 70 years of “campus ministry,” according to intervarsity.org.

“They have a choice as to whether or not they want to be in compliance with state law or not,” Uhlenkamp said. “Regardless of which choice, they decide, they’ll still be welcome…”

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Dear Anonymous –

    IVCF isn’t over reacting – it isn’t crazy to want Christians to be leaders of a Christian group. If you read the article, it is clear that ANYONE and EVERYONE is accepting into the group. You can attend prayer meetings, Bible studies, “Large group” (with musical worship and a speaker), any events, etc.

    However, in order to lead a prayer meeting, Bible study, large group, musical worship, etc. you must fully believe in what you are doing – i.e. be a Christian. It isn’t about holding a set of values, but a faith in God and that Jesus is Lord and Savior. These aren’t just tenants of a club but spiritual truths that Christians live by, and thus would need to lead from.

    Your passage reference is about a Christian community, and about not judging one another. More synonymous might be people watching Rated-R movies vs. those who don’t think they should, or drinking alcohol, evolution, etc. This isn’t about whether or not someone believes in Jesus Christ (what it means to be Christian) nor is it about leadership of a Christian community.

    There are numerous passages in scripture about choosing leaders based on a set of values, and the highest is that they Love God and Love Others. Jesus himself chose leaders (Peter). And as we see, Peter isn’t perfect. IVCF isn’t about choosing the perfect leaders, but about having leaders who demonstrate faith in God, love for others, and a desire to learn and grow.

  2. Avatar

    This “open membership” policy has the potential to wreck havoc for all belief and merit-based student organizations in the CSU–InterVarsity is just another signal fire for the bigger problem at hand. This policy is enforcing discrimination in the name of diversity.

    Stand up and work together to do something about this issue: http://www.csusofa.org/about.html

  3. Avatar

    I’m Christian, and I think that IVCF is over reacting. A real Christian excepts all.

    “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”
    -Romans 14:1-4

    God Bless

    • Avatar
      Anonymous XYZ

      Dear Anonymous Christian,

      You are right! A real Christian accepts all. And so does InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. We accept all students & faculty regardless or race, ethnicity, status, sexual orientation, and/or beliefs. In our purpose statement (http://www.intervarsity.org/about/our/our-purpose) it reads that we seek to love God’s people of every ethnicity and culture. Everyone is welcome to participate in our chapters. However, the only stipulation is that the executive leaders (president, vp, secretary and treasurer) subscribe to Christian beliefs. IVCF is after all a Christian Fellowship. That is what differentiates them from any other group on campus. To open up leadership to anyone who is not a Christian seems counterproductive with the groups vision and goals. Why would IVCF agree to have an atheist for example lead the group. To not allow IVCF to be on campus, in my opinion is basically the school saying that they don’t ‘accept’ Christian groups. To remove the clause in their constitution is to render their group no longer Christian.

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