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In shift, Tufts allows campus religious groups leeway in choosing leaders

Posted by Roy Greene  December 6, 2012 01:12 PM

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By Peter Schworm, Globe Staff

Under a new policy, Tufts University will allow student religious groups to maintain religious requirements for its leaders, overturning a ruling that an evangelical Christian organization had violated the college’s nondiscrimination policy.

Last month, an arm of the student government voted to withdraw recognition of the Tufts Christian Fellowship because it required its leaders to celebrate “the basic biblical truths of Christianity.” That violated school policies against religious discrimination, the group held.

The decision, which touched on an issue that has roiled a number of campuses, drew sharp criticism from religious freedom groups.

The group appealed the decision to a faculty-student committee, which on Wednesday held that student groups could require its leaders to adhere to the faith. The fellowship can now reapply for campus recognition under the new guidelines.

In a statement, the student group praised the decision, saying it “protects religious freedom and affirms the vital contributions that Tufts Christian Fellowship and all other religious groups make to Tufts students in a diverse campus environment.”

The faculty committee found that the student government panel had ruled correctly, and responded by crafting an exemption for religious groups. Religious groups must submit leadership requirements for review by the university chaplain.

“If a religious doctrine requires departure from Tufts’ nondiscrimination policy, then it is incumbent on the [student religious group] to highlight the conflict between the two and show how it affects the group’s choice of leaders,” the co-chairs of the committee wrote in an op-ed to the student newspaper.

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