A Tufts University student judiciary, attempting to resolve a discrimination charge, placed Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) on probation in October. The student judiciary also ruled that TCF should remain a recognized and funded student group on campus.
The seven-member Tufts Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) unanimously decided that TCF, a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), violated the university's nondiscrimination policy in its treatment of lesbian student Julie Catalano, who wanted to be one of the group's senior leaders. The group was cleared of two other charges.
TCF will be on probation for the remainder of the current academic year and, in accord with the ruling, has submitted a revised constitution to the TCUJ. The revised constitution clarifies the theologically conservative and evangelical nature of TCF.
The fall ruling stemmed from an appeal filed by TCF, which the Boston-area university first banished last April. The decision to banish the group, which grabbed national headlines, was reversed on procedural grounds in May.
Both sides presented their cases during a hearing in October. From this hearing, the Tufts judiciary decided TCF's process for selecting leaders was fair because the group expected both homosexual and heterosexual members to oppose homosexual practice.
The TCUJ found that TCF held a double standard by denying Catalano a leadership position while accepting Ohene Asare, a heterosexual who was a senior leader in 1999. (TCUJ concluded that Ohene agrees with Catalano's view that Scripture does not prohibit homosexual practice.)
Both David French, a lecturer at Cornell Law School who served as the group's legal counsel, and Jonathan Crowe, current TCF senior leader, deny the charge of discrimination and believe the judiciary misinterpreted Asare's lengthy testimony.
"My beliefs have not changed from last year," Asare told CT via e-mail. "The Scripture clearly states that homosexual practice is not God's intention for man. And I believe the Scripture is God-inspired and root my faith in it."
French described Asare as giving 90 minutes of confusing testimony during the hearing. "His bottom line got lost."
"We are relieved by the overall ruling," French says on behalf of TCF members. "The [judiciary] agreed with our fundamental point that a religious group can use its beliefs to choose its own leaders."
Catalano blasted the decision. "I think it's a sad and limited interpretation of the antidiscrimination policy," she told the campus newspaper, The Tufts Daily. "TCF allowed me to lead as a lesbian as long as I was self-hating and praying to be straight. [The judiciary], in [its] decision, has justified that."
Many Tufts students agree with Catalano and have formed an umbrella organization called Tufts Students Against Discrimination (TSAD), which sponsored a 500-person rally on campus to protest the decision.
The group also presented 1,200 petitions to the administration. "I hope [the ruling] will raise more opportunities for dialogue," Crowe says, "so that we can come to a greater level of mutual respect and understanding."
In its ruling, the judiciary also criticized IVCF staff worker Jody Chang for her role in last spring's leadership selection and encouraged TCF to reevaluate its affiliation with IVCF. Chang is on sabbatical in California this year and issued a statement denying any wrongdoing.
Says Crowe: "We're not planning to withdraw from InterVarsity."
Tufts Christian Fellowship has its own Web site. There you can read "What We Believe About Homosexuality" by Curtis Chang, the IV Staff Associate Chaplain, or a column about the controversy by The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby.
Previous Christianity Today coverage of this controversy includes "Fury Rises Over Tufts University's Banning of Christian Group," "Tufts University in Uproar Over Probation Decision for Christian Group," and "Politics of Sexuality."
Copyright © 2000 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.