Tufts Christian Fellowship controversy highlights importance of religious diversity
The Tufts University community should find a way to keep the Tufts Christian Fellowship among the university’s recognized student groups. The funds that the fellowship receives and its right to use the Tufts name are both in jeopardy after an arm of student government voted to “de-recognize” the group, on the grounds that its constitution contained discriminatory language. Any group that’s actually shown to be discriminating against students deserves no recognition. Yet the fellowship at Tufts is far more likely to be a helpful haven for evangelical Christian students — who are far from a dominant force at most Boston-area colleges — than a vehicle for exclusion on campus.
Like other campuses, Tufts strives for diversity, and supports a variety of religious-oriented student organizations. But no one should be surprised when those organizations emphasize their own beliefs.
The Christian fellowship's constitution clearly tries to strike a balance: "While membership and activities are open to all members of the Tufts community," it says, the group "is founded on traditional evangelical Christian beliefs." The document goes on to say that leaders must support the group's spiritual tenets and "exemplify Christ-like characteristics." These would be outrageous restrictions on a sports team or student newspaper. But some level of doctrinal specificity is inevitable from a religious-oriented group, and the Christian fellowship's rules are at least open to some interpretation.
It's possible, of course, to read the fellowship's constitution in ways that might run afoul of Tufts's anti-discrimination rules. And if critics were pointing to an actual case in which fellowship members mistreated, for instance, a gay Christian who fully supported the group's mission, the de-recognition by student government might be easier to understand. But as matters stand, Tufts should be looking for ways to be as inclusive as possible, instead of finding reasons to cut the fellowship off.