More universities say InterVarsity must allow non-Christian leaders
Less than two weeks ago, Weblog noted that Harvard University was withholding a grant to the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship because the group required that its leaders be Christians. Such a policy, the school's Undergraduate Council said, violated anti-discrimination policies. At the time, Weblog said the case was odd. It's already time to rescind that.

Papers today report that Rutgers University and the University of North Carolina have also taken steps to remove official recognition and funding from their InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapters for the same reason—only Christians may lead the Christian organization.

"Your group does not allow full participation 'without regard to … religion  … ' as mandated by our Application for Official University Recognition," Jonathan E. Curtis, UNC-Chapel Hill's assistant director for student activities and organizations wrote to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in a December 10 letter. "Consequently I am writing to notify you that you will need to modify the wording of your charter, or I will have no choice but to revoke your University recognition." Curtis gave the group until January 31 to do so, and reportedly gave the same ultimatum to two other Christian groups on campus

Rutgers University removed official recognition from the InterVarsity Multi-Ethnic Christian Fellowship as a "registered student organization" in September. Yesterday, the group sued the school.

"How can we ensure the group has a Christian mission without some assurance the leaders are Christian?" said David French, attorney for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which filed the lawsuit (with support from the Alliance Defense Fund) on the group's behalf. FIRE is also threatening to sue UNC-Chapel Hill.

Mark Stern, attorney for the American Jewish Congress, says Rutgers' actions are clearly illegal. "The notion, for example, that I [as a Jew] would have a right to be the head of a Christian group is absurd," he said. "After the Boy Scout decision, this is a total no-brainer."

The issue, says InterVarsity area director Laura Vellenga, is freedom of speech. "It is in our best interest to throw open our membership to anybody in the community, but our leadership is a different matter," she told the Newark Star-Ledger.

Scott Vermillion, staff director for the four UNC InterVarsity chapters, told the Raleigh News & Observer the same thing. "We're saying, 'If you're going to be a leader of this organization, you need to believe in what this organization stands for.' We're not trying to keep anybody out. We're just trying to keep InterVarsity InterVarsity." "We're not a belligerent group, but we do want access to campus and to funding," Vermillion said.

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But FIRE's press release is clearly belligerent. "For years now, American universities have engaged in a ferocious assault on the American principles and basic human rights of freedom of conscience, religious liberty, and the First Amendment," FIRE president Alan Charles Kors says in it. "These universities … seem to think they have the power to demand allegiance to the values and beliefs of current academic administrators. It is an intolerant and intolerable outrage."

The Star-Ledger couldn't reach anyone at Rutgers for comment, but the News & Observer heard from Dean L. Bresciani, UNC-Chapel Hill's interim vice chancellor for student affairs. "We have no intention of kicking the group off campus, and we're prepared to work very hard to avoid that scenario," he said. "We're feeling confident we can find some solution. We just have to find a way to get around the legal hurdle."

Yemeni attacker attempted to kill a fifth worker
There's little news from Yemen since the arrest of Abed Abdul-Razak al-Kamil, but The Washington Post reports today that there were nearly five victims instead of four. After wounding pharmacist Donald W. Caswell, Kamil "aimed his gun at a Filipino hospital employee, but the weapon did not fire."

The Times of London reports that Yemeni authorities believe Kamil "is a former member of the country's Islamic opposition party, Islah, but deserted it because he thought it too soft in its war against the West and America."

Other than that, most new stories focus on the victims and the growing threat against missionaries around the world.

"With the rise of religious politics, missionaries come into the cross hairs of Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists," Bernard Haykel, assistant professor of Middle Eastern studies and history at New York University, tells The New York Times. "Certainly as the Arab and Muslim world has become more radicalized Islamically, people have become more aware of missionaries and more irritated by them."

In another development, Associated Baptist Press reports that the hospital was already in turmoil:

The attack came one day before the hospital was scheduled either to close or be turned over to another entity. … Last July the People's Charitable Society, a local Muslim charity, offered to assume control of the hospital, which IMB officials called "an answer to prayer." As the Dec. 31 deadline for the transfer approached, however, no plans were announced and the transfer appeared unlikely. Hospital administrators made plans to close the facility. But in a Dec. 22 memo, administrator Koehn told staff members the transfer to the People's Charitable Society would indeed take place "on or about [the] 28th or 29th of December."
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The IMB planned to continue to pay the salary of hospital personnel, including IMB representatives, who wanted to work under the new ownership, but only until the end of their current contracts and only if the new Muslim charity approved, according to the memo.
Most IMB personnel were making plans to leave Yemen or transfer to new jobs elsewhere in the country. But four of the 13—including the three killed—planned to stay. IMB spokeswoman Anita Bowden said the IMB is not commenting on the status of the transfer.

Baptist Press, the official news service of the Southern Baptist Convention, will be posting several articles on the fallout throughout the rest of the week.

Happy New Year
No Weblog tomorrow. No new article postings, either. We'll be back Thursday.

More articles

Missions and ministry:

  • It takes a village to raise a house | In a sort of suburban barn-raising, people here are building Gracia and her three children a house for Christmas (USA Today)

  • Telling the world about the Christ of Christmas | Missionary zeal has sent American Christians overseas since before the Civil War (The Washington Times)

  • Priests order last supper at red light diner | Paris loses one of its more unusual culinary landmarks this evening when Le Bistrot du Curé, an outpost of Christian kindness and good cooking amid the streetwalkers, sex shops and neon-lit peep shows of Pigalle, opens its doors for the last time (The Guardian, London)

  • Christian, Muslim women promote peace in Maluku | When GPP Maluku began its job, it faced strong opposition from Christian and Muslim youths (The Jakarta Post)

  • Gays hit back at charity on right to adopt | The Christian Institute could have its tax-exempt status removed after launching a campaign to stop same-sex couples adopting children with money raised through their charitable position (The Guardian, London)

  • Hijacking India's history | "Christians burst into houses and make converts of Hindus by bribing them or beating them," explains one student (Kai Friese, The New York Times)

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Other religions and interfaith relations:

Atheist Boy Scout appeals expulsion:


  • Birth control law challenged | Church institutions sue over insurance (Newsday)

  • Court upholds worship in prison | The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday against California prison officials in a lawsuit originally brought in 1996 by a group of Muslim inmates who claimed they were penalized for attending Friday afternoon religious services (Associated Press)

Politics and law:

  • G.O.P. website apologizes for anti-Islam link | The Web site of a North Carolina county Republican organization promoted, which describes Islam as "one of the greatest evils on our planet." (The New York Times)

  • 'Church has erred on declaration' | The Church has been held directly responsible for the country's current economic and political malaise for not abiding by the covenant entered into when Zambia was declared a Christian nation 11 years ago, says Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia head (The Times of Zambia)

  • Also: Zambia's controversial hero | Kenneth Kaunda, both lionized and demonized for his former reign, reflects on his mixed legacy (The Boston Globe)

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  • Earlier: One African Nation Under God | Zambia is missionary David Livingstone's greatest legacy. But this Christian nation isn't always heaven on earth (Christianity Today, Feb. 5, 2002)

Faith-based funding:

  • Bush's charitable decisions | Through three specific examples and declarations embedded in the speech, President Bush is taking sides on his initiative's most controversial issue: what to do with organizations that not only have a religious name but mix religious teaching with the provision of social services (Marvin Olasky, The Washington Post)

  • Using tax dollars for churches | The president's unilateral order, which lets religious groups use tax dollars to finance their programs, should be struck down (Editorial, The New York Times)

  • No state funds in church coffers | As a deeply spiritual person who knows the injustice that religious minorities suffer, I fear that these policies will not only increase discrimination and foment division among our citizens but also erode the fundamental principle of religious freedom that lies at the heart of our country (Susan Goering, The Baltimore Sun)

Crime and violence:

Human cloning:


  • A holiday staple gone dark | Two weeks ago, the 12-story cross of light that has illuminated Park Avenue each December for 50 years went dark. Some Christians are calling the change anti-Catholic, while some Jews say it was long overdue (The New York Times)

  • Reason for the season has been lost on many | Christmas is not about shopping. It should be a holiday that reminds us to measure ourselves by how we treat the ''least of these" (Jesse Jackson, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Thank you, Christians, for your gifts | Every year, in these darkest days, you light up the streets with those wonderful colors and spread good cheer, even for those of us who are not Christian. And you do all this to celebrate the birth of one who said: "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you." (Ira Chernus, Common Dreams)
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  • Harry Potter sparks row in Russia | Some charge that Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is anti-Christian. (BBC)

  • Christian cinema and video flourish despite challenges | Left Behind II, with Kirk Cameron again starring as an intrepid TV reporter ready to do battle with the forces of Evil, is already a phenomenon, like its predecessor and the other quiet successes of the burgeoning evangelical Christian entertainment market (KRT)


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