A Christian student group has lost its standing as an official student organization at California State University because it has declined to comply with a university policy that prohibits Cal State campuses from recognizing any student group that denies membership and leadership to students based on a variety of factors, including religion, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
The group, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is open to all students, but its bylaws require chapter leaders to agree with the organization’s doctrine.
A Cal State spokesman, Michael Uhlenkamp, told the newspaper that the university had already given the fellowship a year to change its bylaws to comply with the policy, laid out in a 2011 executive order issued by the chancellor then, Charles B. Reed. The spokesman added that the university had not asked the group to leave the campuses. “There’s no ban on them,” Mr. Uhlenkamp said. “They’re actually welcome on campus. The idea that they would not be recognized is what’s at stake.”
Denial of official recognition means the group’s chapters will lose the advantages that come with that status, including discounted access to meeting rooms, potential funds from the student association, and participation in student fairs.
Gregory L. Jao, the national field director for InterVarsity, said the loss of those advantages would be a blow to the Cal State chapters. He estimated that each chapter would lose $13,000 to $33,000 a year in support.
Similar conflicts have played out at other colleges across the nation between advocates of religious freedom and college administrators charged with creating inclusive environments on the campus.
“There’s a chilling effect,” Mr. Jao told the Press-Telegram. “Your religious beliefs are so unimportant they can be replaced by a democratic election. Students understand it means they’re not welcome there because their religious convictions are outside the pale of what the university is willing to tolerate.”