The website of Knox College, a small Illinois liberal arts college, boasts over one hundred student organizations from which students can choose in order to find people who share their values and interests.
But it might have one fewer, if junior Ashley Kerley gets her way. When she read InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s 20-page document called “Theology on Human Sexuality” she was dismayed that it stated Christians should love “same-sex-attracted people” but also “Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage.”
Kerley, president of Common Ground, an LGBTQ+ organization on campus, is trying to force this group to separate from its national organization or be defunded on campus. Apparently, she doesn’t believe both groups can remain peacefully on campus together, no matter how many cars in the Knox parking lot have the “coexist” bumper sticker. However, she claims she doesn’t want to take anyone’s religious freedom away.
“I think there should be a Christian organization,”” she told the student newspaper, but she doesn’t want one that is “affiliated with this national organization that oppresses the LGBT community.” Of course, the group doesn’t “oppress” anyone, but Kerley is under the erroneous impression that if a group doesn’t agree with all of her life choices that she gets to throw around such poisonous words and veto others’ basic rights. In other words, she is fine with traditional Christian groups as long as they do not espouse traditional Christian beliefs. How magnanimous of her.
“It’s really hard to be a member of a marginalized group, to say ‘this is the prejudice I face’ and have members of that group look me in the face and tell me I’m wrong,” Kerley explained as she figuratively looked the members of Intervarsity’s Knox College group in the face and told them they are wrong. Nothing says tolerance like a threat to obliterate a group because they represent a minority viewpoint on campus, am I right?
This is far from the only incidence of Christians facing punishment for refusing to publicly make a political and moral position that goes against their beliefs on college campuses. A Missouri State University professor asked students to sign a letter to a state legislator calling for an end to the ban on adoptions by same-sex couples. When student Emily Brooker refused, she was disciplined. Counseling student Julea Ward was dismissed from her Eastern Michigan University program because she refused to change her belief on the morality of homosexual behavior. And, in fact, Intervarsity has faced this type of religious persecution over the past few decades on colleges all over the nation.
However, the intolerant gay activists don’t usually create the desired effect with InterVarsity.
“In 2001, InterVarsity reported reaching roughly 31,906 students and faculty on 533 campuses,” according to Constitutional attorney David French. “By 2015, InterVarsity was on 649 campuses and reaching more than 40,000 students and faculty. This was a double-digit growth rate made all the more notable by the facts that overall religious participation declines significantly during students’ college years and that Millennials are more likely to disavow the faith of their parents than any preceding generation. While Christianity struggles on campus, InterVarsity grows.” It also tends to win these fights for their religious freedom.
Common Ground and Intervarsity met to discuss Intervarsity’s potential disaffiliation from the national group on Sept. 21, but Kerley was not able to budge them from their position. That’s because the group, by associating with Intervarsity, has already proved that they are serious about theology. InterVarsity is a collection of student-run organizations connected by the organization’s statement of faith. The group is voluntarily and purposefully affiliated with Intervarsity because it actively shares those values. “When administrators pushed student leadership to abandon the national organization and move forward ‘free’ of external influence,” French explains, “they encountered students who had already made the choice to affiliate with InterVarsity and viewed that choice as an important expression of their beliefs and freedom. It was a choice they would reaffirm again and again.”
That’s precisely how this is playing out on the Knox College’s campus, unsurprisingly since -- throughout history -- Christians have become more faithful as the culture grows more and more intolerant towards them. The Apostle Paul even described this phenomenon in the Bible: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame.” Who else isn’t surprised that a movement whose leader was actually crucified won’t back down from a little social discomfort from a campus LGBTQ group?
I mentioned earlier that the school’s website boasted of over a hundred clubs, but it also has a statement of diversity. “We believe that you learn the most from the people least like you. Knox College is rooted in an historic commitment to social justice and to access to education for all qualified students. Today, Knox is one of the 50 most diverse campuses in America, with a campus community that includes a wide array of races, ethnicities, ages, cultures, backgrounds, genders and gender identities, sexual orientations, and beliefs.”
That commitment to diversity should complicate Kerley’s effort create a mono-culture on campus. It’s time for Knox College to affirm this diversity and to stop Common Ground from trying to bully the InterVarsity off campus.
It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the tolerant thing to do.
Mark Meckler is President of Citizens for Self-Governance, grassroots leader, and co-founder of the tea party movement.