IVCF re-recognized as official SA club

Controversial ruling from April 2012 is reversed

By AARON MANSFIELD
On July 27, 2012

  • IVCF vs. Student Association Timeline. Illustration by Brian Josephs, Senior Managing Editor /// The Spectrum

Saturday afternoon, the Student-Wide Judiciary ruled in favor of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, restoring the religious organization as an officially recognized Student Association club and granting all due rights effective immediately in case IVCF versus SA Senate.

InterVarsity was de-recognized by the Senate at the end of the Spring 2012 semester after homosexual treasurer Steven Jackson felt pressured to resign from his post.

"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 told The Spectrum in Dec. 2011.

The club will not receive funding or office space for the 2012-13 school year, as SA has already set its appropriations, though IVCF may submit a budget proposal.

The SWJ based its ruling on one primary question: is membership the same as leadership? IVCF's constitution requires officers, not all members, to sign a faith-based agreement, essentially stating they agree with everything in the scripture. An SA policy states an organization cannot exclude any student from becoming a member. IVCF has no restrictive membership clause, but rather a restrictive officer clause.

As stated in the official ruling: "The Senate made their decision based on an erroneous interpretation of the policy."

SWJ Chief Justice Andrew Stebbins participated in an interview with The Spectrum.

"We came to our conclusion after reading through relevant precedent, in addition to hearing the merits of this case," Stebbins said. "Everything suggests IVCF was in the right, and has been in the right all along.

"The Senate's investigative committee had no authority to interpret code of conduct any different than it reads. To then use their interpretation to punish IVCF is unacceptable, as we found."

Jackson is also the speaker of the SA Assembly. He is a junior history major.

"Rules made in an ad hoc manner by an investigative committee cannot be validly applied to punish a student group," Stebbins said. "Even if the policy were ambiguous, which it is not, it is a fundamental canon of constitutional adjudication to avoid constitutional questions if possible by interpreting any statute to avoid constitutional problems, particularly First Amendment problems. For that reason, the policy should not be read to apply to religious groups' leadership decisions. They erred in expanding Buffalo's policy, in saying membership is no different than leadership. Clearly, it is."

Last year's SA Treasurer, Sikander Khan (who eventually resigned from his position amidst scandal), ruled to suspend the IVCF and its $6,000 budget two days before Dec. 4, 2011 - when an investigative committee could be formed. The club was officially removed from SA's budget on April 15. Stebbins took office on May 1, and said the first case to land on his desk was IVCF's. He's been researching since then.

"It has consumed a lot of my time but I'm not complaining; we got the decision right," he said.

SA President Travis Nemmer emailed a statement to The Spectrum. Nemmer said he understands the importance of separation of powers and therefore would not comment on whether the Senate's ruling was right or wrong.

"It is my opinion as the President of the Student Association that the previous Executive Board acted reflexively, rashly, and without appropriate understanding of the consequences of their actions," Nemmer wrote. "It is not an action that will be undertaken by my administration, and I would seek to dissuade any future Executive Boards from suspending clubs with unproven charges of discrimination in advance of evidence of discrimination found by the appropriate authorities, that being specifically an Investigative Committee of the Student Association Senate."

Timeline:

December 1, 2011: Spectrum article is published detailing Jackson's pressured resignation

December 2, 2011: SA Treasurer Sikander Khan announces suspension of IVCF

April 15, 2012: SA Senate officially de-recognizes IVCF as an SA club

April 25, 2012: IVCF announces it will appeal its de-recognition

July 28, 2012: IVCF officially re-recognized by Student-Wide Judiciary as an SA club


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