Tufts Finds Compromise Over Evangelical Group

A new policy seeks balance between non-discrimination and religious diversity.

File this in the “can’t we all just get along?” folder under YES: The recent controversy brewing at Tufts over the student government’s “de-recognition” of an on-campus evangelical group has been addressed through a compromise announced today, according to the Tufts Daily.

The Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), an evangelical Christian group, risked losing its name affiliation and funding from the university when an arm of the student government judged that the group constitution’s requirement that members adhere to certain tenets of faith violated the school’s non-discrimination policy. After a month of deliberating (“This has taken time, but anything less would be disrespectful,” write the Student Life Committee’s leaders in an op-ed published today), the university’s new policy strikes a balance between the need for religious diversity and nondiscrimination on campus. The rules now enable religious groups to seek exemptions from the university’s nondiscrimination clause through its Chaplaincy offices when certain organizational policies synced up with their belief systems.  In terms of Student Religious Groups (SRGs) on campus, the gist of the new policy is as follows:

SRGs will need to justify, on religious doctrinal grounds, any departures from Tufts nondiscrimination policy required for their leadership. The University Chaplain will now be charged with the responsibility of evaluating the legitimacy of the justification, and the TCUJ will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring plainspoken transparency. Placing the power of approval for religious justification with a central university-wide religious authority at Tufts provides an added dimension of knowledge, legitimacy and fairness to this new policy.

The Tufts student leaders defended the decision to exclude the group in the first place–a university’s nondiscrimination policy trumps the student judicial board’s decisions in most cases–but it’s good to see that such compromises can be made. The TCF has been given a 60 day window to reapply for university recognition, and has been granted a “conditional recognition” in the interim.