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Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Pressured Gay Treasurer to Resign

Fellowship’s "basis of faith" signature requirement may be illegal

Senior News Editor

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2011

Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11

Steven Jackson

Meg Kinsley /// The Spectrum

Steven Jackson felt pressured to resign as treasurer from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship because he is gay.


            Sophomore history and French major Steven Jackson resigned last month from his post as treasurer of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship after feeling pressured to do so because he is gay, he told The Spectrum. The Fellowship may also be breaking the law, as its constitution requires its executive board members to sign a “basis of faith,” a statement affirming certain Christian beliefs.

            The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) is a national, student-led, evangelical ministry with a UB chapter, recognized and funded as a club by the Student Association. Jackson is also the speaker of the SA Assembly.

            IVCF Vice President Leslie Varughese said the club’s executive board members, including Jackson, mutually decided that Jackson’s resignation would be best for both Jackson and the club, not because of Jackson’s homosexuality, but because of his refusal to accept Biblical scripture – specifically, those Bible passages that condemn homosexuality.

            Simply put, the problem was not that Jackson is gay; the problem was that Jackson doesn’t accept Bible verses that condemn gay people.

            “I don’t see Scripture as reliable as they do,” Jackson said. “They’ll take it as God’s word, and I won’t, because I don’t believe that’s the case.”

             But Jackson, who was elected treasurer by his fellow IVCF members, also said that his homosexuality was indeed a sticking point.

            “[Other IVCF members] said, ‘Well, on one hand, you’re gay, and that’s not a message that we want Intervarsity to show the campus that we think is an OK lifestyle,’” Jackson said.

            Jackson did not want to reveal the identities of those who told him that he should step down, but he said that they included both IVCF staff and executive board members.

            When asked whether Varughese’s characterization of the resignation as a mutual agreement was accurate, Jackson said yes and no.

            “It was definitely a pressured [resignation]…They made it clear that they felt like I should step down and kind of made me uncomfortable enough to the point where I just wanted to leave,” Jackson said.

            Both Jackson and Varughese said that Jackson’s resignation resulted from his being in a leadership position (treasurer), and that if he had been an ordinary member of the club, nothing likely would have happened.

            “We told Steve that it would be very difficult for him to lead with integrity in an organization that had contrary beliefs…We didn’t ask him to leave the Fellowship, and we do not want him to leave the Fellowship,” Varughese said. “We love him, and we want him to continue to seek God and grow in his faith.”

            She added that the IVCF welcomes all people and has had members with different varieties of backgrounds, beliefs, and practices.

            Jackson’s boyfriend, junior English major Clinton Hodnett – events coordinator for UB LGBTA and a student assistant with Wellness Education Services’ LGBT Outreach Team – also identifies as both gay and Christian.

            “I don’t think that being gay intrudes upon my religious beliefs at all,” Hodnett said. “It may change what religious beliefs I choose to agree with or not, but I don’t consider myself any less of a Christian because of my sexual orientation.”

            SA Senator Katherine Pizzutelli said the SA Senate will discuss the IVCF at its next meeting, to be held Sunday at 3 p.m.

            “Intervarsity Christian Fellowship was given a budget of $6,000 this year,” Pizzutelli said in an email. “Divide that by 20,000 undergrads. I will not tolerate discrimination. I feel like asking for my 30 cents back. I have talked to several people over the past few weeks and have discovered that some students, my friends, have felt personally targeted by [IVCF]. If someone has felt personally threatened by any entity on this campus, I would encourage them to call the University Police to report the incident.”

            Because UB is a public school, the IVCF’s “basis of faith” may be illegal as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Christian Legal Society v. Martinez decision, which established that a student cannot be barred from participating in a club because of his status or beliefs.

            The SA Senate will consider derecognizing the IVCF if senators find it to have broken the law, according to Pizzutelli.

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Craig Fox
Wed Dec 21 2011 18:16
It might be worth people's while to take some religion classes- particularly classes that deal with translations of the Bible: They might learn that there is no portion of the Bible, nowhere, that actually outlaws or denigrates homosexuality. Spending only 1 hour on the internet you can find research papers and scholarly articles about all of the so-called anti-gay provisions which show that these are all the result of bad translations of bad translations and followed by mistaken interpretations by uneducated people.
Tue Dec 6 2011 07:05
as a fellow Christian, I am ashamed. We are taught to not judge & to love EVERYONE. Not just those who are "Godly" because we are to teach & set an example. Gay, Transgendered, Straight, whatever. It is not our calling to judge & even if you don't agree with someones lifestyle you are still to show them the love of the Lord, who loves EVERYONE. Every person is made in HIs image, the Bible doesn't say " I have created you in my image, except for the gays." It also doesn't say that one sin is worse than another. Being gay & judging others are both sins of equal weight in the eyes of the Lord. Anyone speaking differently needs to go back to their Bible & reread what they "know."
Sat Dec 3 2011 00:34
@Anonymous 5, I certainly understand where you're coming from. However, I happen to know both parties in question and the full story is far from told in this article. This situation has been significantly blown out of proportion and without accurate reporting of all the facts. I did not intend my post to be in anger or mockery, merely an example of how some outdated customs (in my view) that are presented in the Bible. I believe that the author of that letter also felt similarly, not to make a mockery of religion, but to point out that as society grows and the times change, religion sometimes must adapt and change as well. Where would our society be if instead of developing new technologies we maintained the same standard of living prevalent 100 years ago. While not of a religious affiliation, I do respect all religions and faiths. I had no intention of insulting of making a mockery of anyone. Merely pointing out a few examples of some customs that seem as though they would be (and I would hope you feel the same about some of them) unacceptable today. That is all.
Luke Hammill
Fri Dec 2 2011 18:26
@Carmex: Christian Legal v. Martinez did deal with a public university (UC Hastings).
Fri Dec 2 2011 18:22
So, a WOMAN spokesperson for the club says that Mr. Jackson was asked to leave for not believing in the biblical scripture relating to homosexuality, usually referencing an Old Testament Leviticus verse, or a more vague New Testament Romans verse.

Ironically, there is a new testament verse, 1 Timothy 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent," that this spokeswoman seems to be violating. Perhaps she should resign as well.

Fri Dec 2 2011 17:33
The fact is the club has every right to ask Mr. Jackson to resign over differences. If they wrote him a letter asking him to resign and he became uncomfortable and decided to resign, that doesn't necessarily mean he has any cause of action against the club. Making someone "uncomfortable" is not a constitutional issue. Furthermore, the club's connection to the government is too attenuated to be a state actor.

I think most of the landmark cases on issues like this deal with clubs are that preventing access to certain students or trying to expel students from membership. Christian Legal v. Martinez is not precedence; it did not deal with a public university.

That said, the Student Senate can still de-fund the club (private actors - the Senate could vote either way on this without court or government interference).

Mr. Jackson's best approach is to put pressure on the University and get the University to put pressure on the club for public policy reasons.

A legal solution will not work here. This can only be won through University politics.

Fri Dec 2 2011 17:19
@Anonymous 2 and 4. What I'm saying is that it's clear that the goal of the group was not kick him out of the community or to make fun of him in any way (the article makes this clear even though the journalism is sloppy). I just find it interesting that the response to a sincerely held belief is mockery and anger, with the simultaneous accusation of hypocracy (typically), and in this case, a bit of ignorance :)
Fri Dec 2 2011 12:09
@Anonymous3, I believe that Anonymous2 was making the point that in all religions there are outdated customs and traditions that are no longer applicable to modern society. It brought up a good point that you can't take everything you read in the Bible or any religious book or doctrine as the only way to live.
Fri Dec 2 2011 11:39
@Anonymous 2. IVCF is a Christian group and probably references Romans more than Lev.
Fri Dec 2 2011 11:05
In her radio show, Dr Laura Schlesinger said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following response is an open letter to Dr. Laura, penned by a US resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination .... End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of Menstrual uncleanliness - Lev15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees' of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14) I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I'm confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your adoring fan, James M Kauffman, Ed.D. Professor Emeritus, Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

Fri Dec 2 2011 08:45
Regardless of what your perspective is on this issue, this looks like a very public, messy, and potentially destructive way to handle a disagreement and feeling of discrimination.

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