Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Suspended
SA Senate to investigate legality of club’s constitution
Published: Sunday, December 4, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The Student Association suspended the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship until further notice on Friday, and two days later, the SA Senate created an investigative committee to determine whether the club is in violation of the law and university policy by requiring its executive board members to sign a faith-based agreement.
The suspension came after The Spectrum reported that sophomore history and French major Steven Jackson felt pressured to resign as treasurer of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) – a national, student-led, evangelical ministry with a UB chapter – because his homosexuality didn't sit well with the group's executive board and staff.
"All peripheral privileges afforded to Student Association clubs are revoked for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship until further notice," wrote SA Treasurer Sikander Khan in a Friday letter to the IVCF's executive board.
The SA Senate decided on Sunday afternoon not to lift the suspension after a plea from Jackson himself on behalf of the club. (Jackson is also the speaker of the SA Assembly.) Jackson is still a member of the club, and he attended a club event on Friday night.
Travis Nemmer, acting as an SA senator by proxy, read a prepared statement from Jackson to those assembled in a Knox lecture hall for the meeting, which had unusually high attendance due to the IVCF issue. Many IVCF members were present, as well as numerous other concerned students from the LGBT community and other groups.
"I believe the article in Friday's Spectrum was wholly accurate," Jackson's statement read. "Had my [sexual] orientation not come up, I do not believe that this would be happening right now...If [the IVCF's requirement to sign a faith-based agreement] is illegal, I do not blame Intervarsity. I blame the Student Association for failing to properly review club constitutions and inform clubs of their legality."
Later in his statement, Jackson asked the Senate to lift the suspension.
"I understand that [IVCF] is currently suspended, which means we cannot do events that we were promised space for as an SA club...My plea to the Senate: do not punish the majority, the general membership, for an unfortunate mistake [pressuring me to resign] by a minority, the executive board," Jackson's statement read.
The Senate, though, did not lift the suspension, instead choosing to leave that decision to the SA's executive board, which suspended IVCF in the first place. As a result, the IVCF will miss a club event scheduled for Tuesday, unless the SA executive board decides to lift the suspension before then, which is unlikely.
Legal or Illegal?
The Senate investigative committee was created Sunday to gather information this week and recommend to the Senate at next week's meeting (this coming Sunday at 3 p.m., room to be announced) what action it should take toward IVCF.
IVCF's requiring its executive board members to sign a faith-based agreement could result in the Senate mandating that IVCF abolish the policy, imposing financial sanctions upon IVCF, suspending IVCF further, derecognizing IVCF altogether, or some combination of the above, according to a letter from SA lawyer Joshua Korman to SA President JoAnna Datz.
"SA clubs – even religiously focused clubs – may not deny membership or participation on the basis of a student not professing a belief in a particular faith advocated by that club, and may not require students to sign a statement of commitment to pray and participate in a local church," Korman's letter reads.
The committee will consist of Special Interests and Special Hobbies (IVCF's club council) coordinator Adam Zimnicki, SA Vice President Meghan McMonagle, People of Color coordinator Anabel Casanova, and on-campus senator Daniel Ovadia. Zimnicki will chair the committee, which has the ability to decide to add members. It will likely add someone from the Student-Wide Judiciary.