InterVarsity Christian Fellowship faces another boot out of a university campus for alleged discrimination in its leadership. The major campus ministry filed suit on Monday against the head of the University of Wisconsin to be reinstated as a campus organization.
In a press conference Tuesday, InterVarsity President Alec Hill said, "For over 40 years the student group affiliated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has been active at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. That is until eight months ago."
The university derecognized the ministry chapter for the 2006-2007 school year in February claiming that InterVarsity's requirements for leadership went against the school's anti-discrimination policy. InterVarsity requires its leaders to affirm the ministry's Basis of Faith. InterVarsity-Superior believes that the university's position denies any religious organization the ability to maintain its own identity.
"As we understand it, the university's action was taken simply because InterVarsity requires the students' leaders, not its members but just the leaders, to sign our statement of faith," said Hill. "Frankly, the university's position defies common sense.
"Does this mean, for example, that Hillel (a Jewish campus organization) must accept holocaust deniers as leaders? Does this mean that the young Republicans must accept Democrats as their leaders?"
Speaking along the same lines, David French, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund which filed the lawsuit, said it's common sense that Christian students groups can and should be led by Christians.
"But this is not just a matter of common sense. It is also the binding law in this jurisdiction," said French in a released statement. "What’s amazing is that the university is willing to openly defy the law in its efforts to marginalize or censor Christian influence on campus.”
The InterVarsity chapter at the University of Wisconsin has about 50 members and "de-recognition" deprives the student group of access to campus facilities and student funding.
The lawsuit calls for the re-recognition of InterVarsity as a student organization on campus, which the university has refused to grant.
InterVarsity was among six evangelical groups that were recently barred from Georgetown University. They were denied privileges to reserve rooms on campus for meetings and to use Georgetown's name. Three years ago, InterVarsity faced de-recognition at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Rutgers reversed its decision and re-recognized the campus ministry after several months.
"We're not asking for special treatment," said Hill. "We're just asking for equal treatment."
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has been a Christian ministry working on U.S. college campuses sine 1941. It currently oversees 843 student chapters on 573 college and university campuses across the U.S. and is one of the largest Christian campus ministries.