Relaymedia

Religious Groups Exempt from Non-Discrimination Policy at Purdue Univ.

( [email protected] ) May 26, 2004 01:26 PM EDT

A Christian women's housing group called the Stewart Cooperatives at Purdue University successfully led the university to grant campus religious groups an exemption from the non-discrimination policy with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

The university's non-discrimination clause, which requires that student groups not discriminate on the basis of any of a long list of characteristics, including religious beliefs, have prevented the religious groups from only allowing members of the same faith to join the group.

Groups that failed to adhere to the policy ran the risk of losing rights and privileges on the West Lafayette, Indiana, campus. When the members of the Stewart Cooperative asked to be excused from the requirement, the group was threatened with eviction from the house it owned.

After receiving a letter from FIRE, the university decided to grant the Stewart Cooperative and other campus religious groups an exemption from the non-discrimination policy.


Greg Lukianoff, FIRE's director of legal and public advocacy, thinks the university was unfairly discriminating against the Stewart Cooperative by preventing the group from organizing around religion while allowing other student groups to organize around other shared interests.

Lukianoff said his group is gratified that Purdue has changed its position and he hopes other universities would get the message that religious groups have the right to not allow people with different faith to join.

"Common sense should tell you that if you have a Christian group, it should be allowed to discriminate against non-Christians. There's nothing wrong with that -- the integrity of the group depends on the right to exclude people who don't share their point of view," he said, "If your entire expressive purpose is your religious identity, of course you can 'discriminate' against people who don't share that religious identity."

After handling many of such cases, Lukianoff said "at least some universities are starting to get the message that a non-discrimination clause can be used for discrimination if you don't exempt religious organizations."

Lukianoff however, said it is unfortunate to see many Christian students still not willing to fight for their rights on campus.