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Tufts evangelical group faces ‘de-recognizing’ for requiring leaders to adhere to ‘basic biblical truths’

The student government at Tufts University has taken measures to “de-recognize” an evangelical group on campus because the group requires its leaders to adhere to “basic biblical truths of Christianity,” student government members said on Friday.

The Tufts Community Union Judiciary, the university’s judicial branch of student government, voted earlier this month to no longer recognize the Tufts Christian Fellowship, a chapter of the national InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Tufts student government officials said in a prepared statement.

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The Tufts Christian Fellowship constitution requires that its leaders be dedicated to biblical tenets such as believing solely in one God and in the “personal return of Jesus Christ, who will judge all people with justice and mercy.”

Greg Bodwin, vice chairman of the Tufts Community Union Judiciary, said the fellowship’s leadership requirement violates the discriminatory clause of the Tufts student constitution and that they are the only group to have such a requirement.

Greg Jao, a national spokesman for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said the Tufts chapter intends to appeal the decision and its members are hopeful the Committee on Student Life will rule in its favor.

“We think it is just common sense,” he said.

Jao pointed to Tufts’ all-male a cappella group, the Beelzebubs, as a perfect example of why student organizations should sometimes be able to be selective.

“Clearly [the Beelzebubs are] gender-exclusive,” he said. “We celebrate that because they’re doing male a cappella. They’re adding something unique to Tufts.”

Members of the Tufts Christian Fellowship declined to comment on the record.

Kimberly Thurler, a spokeswoman for the University, said in an e-mailed statement that the Tufts Christian Fellowship has not been banned from Tufts and it retains all its rights and privileges, such as funding from the student government. The group will continue to have those rights pending the outcome of an appeal, she said.

The fellowship can appeal the decision to the Committee on Student Life, which is a standing committee of the faculty, she said.

University officials would not comment on why the judiciary voted for the group to lose its status as an official organization.

If the judiciary’s decision is upheld, Tufts Christian Fellowship would lose its funding from the student government and permission to use the Tufts name, according to members of the student judiciary. The group would still be allowed to meet on campus, however, and could still be affiliated with Tufts’ Chaplaincy, which fosters religious life on campus.

The vote to no longer recognize the group was reported this week by The Tufts Daily.

Tufts Chaplaincy said in a prepared statement that it is supporting both students and administration in attempts to resolve the situation.

“Tufts University is committed to religious freedom and a vibrant spiritual life on campus as well as its policy against discrimination,” the statement said.

According to the fellowship’s constitution, it is a nondenominational evangelical group of Tufts students.

Its constitution states that “leaders of TCF (1) should support and advocate for the letter and spirit of TCF’s Basis of Faith and (2) in response to God’s Love, Grace and Truth should seek to exemplify Christ-like characteristics such as humility, honesty, racial reconciliation, concern for the poor and oppressed of society, sacrificial love, sexual chastity, respect for lawful authority, respect for biblical authority, and integrity, through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@
globe.com.
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