InterVarsity, Rutgers reach agreement on student leaders
The Rutgers InterVarsity Multiethnic Christian Fellowship has dropped its lawsuit against the university after the two institutions reached an agreement on student leadership requirements.

In a joint statement (available at both the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Rutgers websites), the groups say that "the university assured the fellowship that its voting members are permitted to take into account both their own religious beliefs and those of candidates when selecting and voting for their leaders under university policy. Accordingly, during continuing discussions, [the institutions] were able to settle upon a leadership selection process that adheres to university policy and also assures the fellowship's ability to select and maintain leaders compatible with the purposes of the group. The university has approved the organization's constitution."

Last September, the university said the group would no longer be considered a "registered student organization" because its constitution violated the university's anti-discrimination policies.

"This agreement places Rutgers at the forefront in demonstrating that the principles of inclusivity, diversity, free association, and free expression are complementary, not contradictory," Emmet A. Dennis, Rutgers vice president for student affairs, says in the statement.

Michelle DeRitter, president of the InterVarsity chapter, was also quoted. "I can state unequivocally that Christian students can come to Rutgers and participate as equal and valued members of the university community," she said.

The Alliance Defense Fund, which funded the InterVarsity chapter's lawsuit, claimed total victory. In a press release, it said the settlement is "fully in favor of the religious student organization … Under the settlement the university assures the evangelical Christian organization that the fellowship is not violating university policies by requiring that leaders have a credible profession of faith and concur with the fellowship's statement of faith."

The joint statement, however, doesn't seem to go quite that far. The policy says voting members of the group are allowed to take religious beliefs into account when choosing leaders. It does not say that those who disagree with the fellowship's statement of faith can be banned from holding leadership positions. That seems to be at the core of some of the other InterVarsity disputes around the country, including a fight at Tufts University in 2000.

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Still, David French, the attorney who represents InterVarsity chapters in all these disputes, is pleased with what happened at Rutgers. "This resolution is good for both sides," he says in the Alliance Defense Fund press release. "True diversity is enhanced by the presence of a Christian voice on campus, and that voice cannot exist without basic constitutional protections.  This settlement helps the University achieve diversity and the students retain their freedoms."

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