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Flap raises dilemma of refusing to tolerate intolerance

ReGroup’s faith rule stirs clash at Tufts” (Page A1, Nov. 13): The current situation at Tufts University, in which an evangelical Christian student group could be stripped of its official status for requiring that its leaders adhere to the faith, illustrates the dilemma of refusing to tolerate intolerance.

Sincerely held religious beliefs, being constitutionally protected, are a lightning rod for this type of controversy — witness the recent flap over insurance coverage for women’s health services. Yet freedom of religion should not obligate any institution to extend to religious organizations accommodations or privileges that it does not extend to nonreligious groups.

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Official recognition by Tufts is extended only to student groups with nondiscriminatory policies and practices. The members of Tufts Christian Fellowship know the ground rules. If the group cannot meet the threshold, even if the underlying reason is doctrinal and central to its purpose, it is nonetheless free to organize, practice, and worship as it sees fit as an unaffiliated entity.

Many people’s gut reaction to this matter would be different if it involved an anti-Semitic group rather than Christian Fellowship. But the principle is the same in each case: Even though a university like Tufts should not be in the business of censoring a group’s ideas, it can insist on tolerant standards of behavior.

The Christian Fellowship may be inconvenienced by non-recognition, but the university stands to see its reputation sullied in the academic marketplace if it must live by rules that force it either to pass judgment on the ideas of prospective campus groups or to recognize any organization whatsoever on its campus.

Tufts should withhold recognition, and should be deemed right in doing so.

Keith Backman


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