InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Derecognized
The Student Association Senate derecognized the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on Sunday, finally reaching a decision after months of controversy about the club's constitution, which requires officers to endorse Christian beliefs.
The Senate also resolved that next year's SA will review each club's governing documents between May 1 and Aug. 15. If the documents violate any SA or university policies, the club will have to fix the issues to avoid derecognition.
The SA froze IVCF's budget ($6,000 in mandatory student activity fee money at the beginning of the year) and launched an investigation into the club in December. The constitution came into question after former IVCF Treasurer (and current Assembly Speaker) Steven Jackson said the club forced him to resign because he is gay.
Upon being elected, Jackson and the rest of IVCF's e-board were required to sign a "basis of faith" statement, committing themselves to a series of evangelical Christian beliefs, such as the absolute truth of the Bible. Certain Bible verses condemn homosexuality.
After determining that the constitution violated university anti-discrimination policy, SA told the club numerous times to remove the basis of faith from its constitution, but IVCF repeatedly refused to do so.
"I think [IVCF's derecognition] was long overdue...The IVCF broke the law by discriminating in the way that they did," Jackson said after the decision. "And while I initially supported them remaining a campus organization, the fact that they continued going on with a practice that they were told was against the law, against the rules, and said we're not going to change anything, that was just disrespectful to the word of the law and the people who they have been discriminating against."
The derecognized IVCF will no longer be funded by SA and will not be allowed to use classrooms for official meetings. The Campus Ministries Association (CMA), however, still recognizes the club.
At Sunday's meeting, the club had the opportunity to show why it is not in violation of any anti-discrimination policies. Shant Tamazian, filling in for IVCF Outreach Coordinator Quinten Hall-Lochman Van Bennekom, spoke for the club along with other club members. Tamazian said a joint CMA and Student Life investigation determined that the club is not in violation of any federal, state, or university anti-discrimination policies.
The CMA and the Office of Student Life couldn't be reached for this story.
IVCF volunteer John Coles, a Ph.D. student in industrial and systems engineering, said the Senate is misunderstanding the subtleties of the legal argument. He requested that the SA and IVCF lawyers sit down to "hash out the legal issues" before the Senate makes a decision.
Tamazian compared the IVCF to sports clubs, suggesting that many sports clubs discriminate on the basis of gender.
"So are you saying that restricting leadership is in no way restricting membership?" Jackson responded.
Tamazian said sports teams can allow a person to be a teammate but not officially compete, so the IVCF should be able to allow a person who does not sign its basis of faith to be a member but not an officer.
The Senate motioned to move into a closed executive session, and after over an hour of deliberation, it decided to derecognize the group. Any funds the club attained are to be taken by SA and put toward a new organization with a similar purpose.
"I feel like to some extent with all that happened around the case...I think there was a lot of bias, but that's impossible to avoid with this kind of situation," said Tamazian. "I hope that before we graduate we are able to be recognized by the SA as we have in years past, but I don't know what's going to happen."