Thursday, May 03, 2012

The Battle of Vanderbilt: The Tennessee Legislature Comes Through

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
By David French

For some time I've been commenting on a critical front in the battle for religious liberty on campus, the fight for religious liberty at Vanderbilt University. For those who haven't been following this case, a summary: In the name of a particularly empty-headed and hypocritical brand of "nondiscrimination," Vanderbilt is requiring campus Christian groups to be open to non-Christian leadership, even as it protects the special prerogatives of its large (and powerful) community of fraternities and sororities.

It is difficult to fully describe the mendacity and bad faith of senior Vanderbilt officials throughout this process. University officials claimed that they were merely enforcing an old policy - yet they've been confronted with irrefutable evidence of written policy changes that removed protections for religious groups. They compared Christian students seeking Christian leadership for their groups to segregationists. According to multiple sources, they falsely told their own board that their nondiscrimination policy was necessary to preserve federal and state funding. They misled the legislature by claiming that no one had made a written appeal to the university's Board of Trust, when the Board had received multiple written appeals (including one I authored). Finally, when the legislature indicated that it was willing to protect religious liberty on campus, Vanderbilt responded by threatening to opt out of Tennessee's managed-care Medicaid program, causing massive disruption in medical care for Nashville's poorest citizens.

As disappointing as this conduct is, it's not inconsistent with past behavior. Last year, Vanderbilt was caught unlawfully requiring applicants to a nursing residency program to sign a pledge that they'd participate in abortions. Vanderbilt's initial reaction was to deny wrongdoing, but one day later the university reversed course and changed its blatantly unlawful policy. the rest


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