- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

A Christian student group is suing Rutgers University at New Brunswick, arguing that the school revoked the group's recognition, blocked access to campus facilities and stripped its funding because its leadership is selected on the basis of religious beliefs.
The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship says the New Jersey university's actions violated its local chapter's freedom of speech and religion, according to a lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Fellowship members said the college revoked the group's recognition in September because InterVarsity's constitution does not comply with university guidelines on nondiscrimination, the lawsuit states. The university's nondiscrimination policy requires student groups to be open to all students and that any active member must be eligible to run for office.
Sandra Lanman, a Rutgers spokesman, said yesterday that university officials have not suspended or "de-recognized" the group and "have made it clear to the group that it still has access to the same facilities."
However, she did confirm that the university has stopped funding because "the group is not willing to operate under the university's nondiscrimination policy."
Although InterVarsity says it allows anyone to become a member, its charter states that only those "committed to the basis of faith and the purpose of this organization are eligible for leadership positions."
Unlike campus ministry groups, InterVarsity's student group is subject to the Rutger's nondiscrimination policy because it is eligible for school funding.
"The issue is whether organizations can choose their own leadership," said David French, an attorney in Lexington, Ky., who represents InterVarsity. "There is no applicable New Jersey or federal law that can plausibly be read to constitutionally require the fellowship to open its leadership to those individuals who do not subscribe to the fellowship's purpose statement or basis of faith."
InterVarsity, which has more than 34,000 members and is active on more than 560 campuses nationwide, operates a campus ministry group and a student group on the New Brunswick campus.
The incident at Rutgers is one of several such confrontations at college campuses nationwide.
Mr. French attributes the recent increase in legal skirmishes to college officials' "blind application of diversity policies."
"There's a notion that anyone who doesn't toe the line on campus orthodoxy will face an uphill battle on existing at all on campus," Mr. French said. "The discrimination policies collide with free speech and free association rights. If you try to apply the discrimination policies to religious groups, telling these groups that they should not discriminate on the basis of religion, you basically tear the heart of these groups."
The school's actions are a "ferocious assault on the American principles and basic human rights of freedom of conscience, religious liberty and the First Amendment," said Alan Charles Kors, president of the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group that filed the lawsuit against Rutgers on behalf of the fellowship.

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