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Why We Fight for Campus Access
Across the country, 18 million college students are engaged in finals, an opportunity to prove their intellectual mettle. For many Christian college students leading campus ministries, this finals week includes an examination of their Christian convictions. The test has been clear: abandon faith-based leadership requirements or face the expulsion of your group from campus.
Historically, tensions over campus access catalyzed around sexual behavior controversies. Campus administrators, citing anti-discrimination language, would penalize campus ministries that required sexually active members of the LGBT community to step down from organizational leadership. (To be clear, these ministries far more frequently required unmarried, sexually active heterosexual leaders to step down.) In most cases, though, universities and colleges affirmed (sometimes only after lawsuits had been filed) the right of religious groups to select their own leaders.
However, in 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez that a public college may enforce an "all comers" policy on a religious group without violating the First Amendment if it applied the policy universally to all groups. (An all comers policy requires every student organization to allow all students to join or to be eligible to lead the group, including those students who do not agree with the group's core beliefs.) Perhaps emboldened by Martinez, universities and colleges have increasingly provoked campus access controversies by proactively issuing policies which forbid student organizations from using religious criteria in leadership selection.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has been contesting all comers policies on dozens ...1