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Online petition calls Tufts decision to allow religious groups to maintain leadership requirements "University-supported discrimination"

Posted by Your Town  December 21, 2012 03:07 PM

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An online petition calling for Tufts University to reconsider its decision to allow student faith groups to maintain religious requirements for their leaders has garnered more than 550 signatures. The petition, which is on Change.org, says that Tuft’s new policy is a form of “University-supported discrimination.”

Last month, an arm of the student government voted to de-recognize the Tuft’s Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group, because it required its leaders celebrate “the basic biblical truths of Christianity.” The government branch said the group’s rule violated school policies against religious discrimination.

The TCF appealed to a faculty-student committee, which decided on Dec. 5 that a religious group could require leaders to adhere to its faith. Under these new guidelines, the fellowship may reapply for recognition.

In an article published Dec. 5 in The Tufts Daily, leaders of the committee wrote that they did not see the case as an issue of religious freedom, but one of “finding a balance among various protected aspects of one’s identity.”

“Religious faith is fundamental to the identity of some, much like gender or sexual orientation. In fact, these characteristics are so fundamental that all three are protected under Tufts nondiscrimination policy,” the committee leaders wrote. “The leaders of SRGs (student religious groups) are considered the exemplars of the core religious beliefs of that group’s particular religion. Their job is to not only guide the SRG itself, but also to teach and model their faith for others within it.”

The online petition said this policy is discriminatory as it allows student-funded groups to deny a person a leadership position because of his or her beliefs. The petition also said the new rule supports a “severe detraction from discrimination law,” and is punishing members of the LGBT religious community.

“This policy is a direct conduit to the full discrimination against the LGBT religious community, which have both been historically repressed and tend to not fit within what several religious groups formally denote as ‘doctrine,’” the petition says.

One commenter wrote that they supported the petition because, “no one, not a chaplain, not a government official, not a student leader, should get to decide what minorities get to be oppressed.”

Another commenter wrote that she is signing the petition because it is important to her brother, who is a student at Tufts.

“No one should be denied a leadership position, simply because they do not share the same religious beliefs as others,” the commenter wrote. “How is that any different than discriminating against people, because of their sexual orientation or the color of their skin? There is no difference.”

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education released a report Dec. 16 on campus speech codes, which found that Tufts University had restricted the free speech of its students. The school was placed on FIRE’s “Red Alert” list. For a copy of the full report, click here.

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