InterVarsity Wins Key Nondiscrimination Battle at Tufts
"The ability to minister and grow has not been dampened by the fact that the university has made it harder for them to be in the open," she said.
And if defending those beliefs comes at the expense of official recognition, that is a price Christian student organizations must pay, says Carl Esbeck, professor of law at the University of Missouri.
"There's really nothing that a religious organization of integrity can do," Esbeck said. "You're not going to be recognized."
But Jao says official recognition over non-discrimination is not the issue. Rather, the issue at stake is whether or not Christian organizations can regulate who applies for leadership roles—and whether or not they need to, he said.
"The Bible requires us to have clear leadership criteria," Jao said. "To eliminate these (criteria) and not make them explicit would be unfaithful to what tradition requires."
TCF welcomes all students to participate in meetings and become members. And with more than 120 students, it's one of the campus's larger groups. However, TCF requires its student leaders "to support and advocate for the letter and spirit of TCF's Basis of Faith," which includes belief in the Trinity, biblical authority, and salvation by grace through faith.
Similarly, Douglas Laycock, professor of law at the University of Virginia, says the principal function of statements of faith is not to exclude nonbelievers, but to preserve the integrity of the organizations themselves.
"Plenty of Christian organizations drift or split apart over doctrine," he said.
Thus, for student groups that experience total leadership turnover at least once every four years, sustainability is not created by long-term leadership, but by leaders' "allegiance to a clear basis of faith," Jao said.
"It's not a choice between acceding to the university's request or standing our ground," Jao said. "We're going to choose to stand our ground because when student groups have failed to do that over time, they lose doctrinal fidelity and they're removed from campus over time by God."
Tufts' decision confirms for IVCF that choosing to hold its fellowships and leaders to a core set of Christian beliefs is the correct path, Jao says. He hopes the policy change will embolden other universities to follow suit.
Meanwhile, IVCF is currently tracking campus-access issues at more than 30 other college campuses nationwide, including the 26 schools in the California State University system.
"Universities that are truly committed to a pluralistic environment understand why we're making that choice," he said. "Their rationale affirms that principled pluralism is possible."