Christians Denied Religious Freedom on Campus

( [email protected] ) Aug 24, 2004 01:22 PM EDT

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has revoked the charter of Christian group, which is the university’s second discrimination case being investigated by the Department of Education at the request of Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC.

The school said it took the action because the five-year-old Christian fraternity, Alpha lota Omega (AIO) refused to accept non-Christian members and violated the school's nondiscrimination policy by not allowing students to join regardless of their religious beliefs.

AIO contacted the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) when, according to AIO leaders, the university suspended the group's recognition and froze its university account and Web access without warning.

"For years and years and years, the Supreme Court has said, 'If you're going to form a private organization you can dictate your membership, your leadership and how your group is going to be governed to get out its message,' " said David French, president of FIRE.

French said, "AIO is not interested in the religion of its members insofar as Christianity is a 'status.' Like being 'Asian' or 'male.' What is important to AIO is that its members subscribe to the certain 'core of beliefs' that make up Christianity ... Members who did not and would never share these beliefs would unavoidably detract from the purpose of the fraternity."

This is the second federal discrimination probe of UNC initiated by the North Carolina lawmaker this year.

UNC administration officials were not available for comment, but French said the University of North Carolina is just one of many institutions of higher learning with an anti-Christian bias.

"This is the rule, not the exception at public universities," he said. "They need to get involved." "They need to understand what is happening to our First Amendment rights as people of faith in this country, particularly if you're a Christian."

Congressman Jones expects the education department to respond to his complaint alleging discrimination within days.