The University of Michigan has backed down after allegedly banning the Asian chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship from its campus because the Christian group requires its leaders to be Christians.
The decision puts a provisional end to a he-said, she-said tussle between the group and the school that came to a head last week.
Members of Michigan’s Asian InterVarsity say University of Michigan officials insisted on a meeting last December. At the meeting, school officials said the group’s constitution violated the school’s nondiscrimination policy by requiring students in leadership positions to sign a statement of faith.
Sara Chang, an InterVarsity staffer at Michigan, told Fox News that the group elected to stand on religious principle rather than kowtow to the administration’s demand for an altered constitution.
“Holding the Bible as the inspired, divine word of God and seeing the commands for us to choose leaders who have a vibrant faith in Jesus is obviously something very important,” Chang said.
School officials preferred to frame the episode as a minor bureaucratic skirmish, The Michigan Daily reports.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham told The Michigan Daily that the Asian chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship never met the Sept. 30 annual registration deadline that all officially recognized clubs must meet. Cunningham said the group finally completed the process on Monday.
“Part of the process is to bring up anything that might be of interest and to have a dialogue about that,” Cunningham explained.
The dialogue included a meeting concerning the group’s constitution. Attendees included Chang and other InterVarsity representatives, campus ministers, school officials and student leaders.
Chang told The Michigan Daily that school officials reiterated their nondiscrimination at the meeting. Once again, school officials asked the Christian club to change its requirement that leadership be composed of Christians. Group members once again refused.
The university then reportedly offered a compromise that would allow Asian InterVarsity to continue operating as a university-recognized group with its current leadership policy. The catch would be that the school would bear no responsibility if someone later files a discrimination grievance against the group.
Asian InterVarsity declined to accept the compromise, The Michigan Daily reports. Its members did not want any special exemption.
According to Chang, the meeting ended with no sense of finality.
By Monday afternoon, though, an Asian InterVarsity representative had received an email confirming the group’s registration as an officially recognized campus group.
Chang told The Michigan Daily that she basically has no idea if the group is actually officially recognized now. She also doesn’t know what responsibility — if any — the university would accept in the event of a complaint under its nondiscrimination policy.
Ultimately, then, Asian InterVarsity made no changes to its constitution. Leaders must still sign a statement professing their Christian faith. The group is apparently still in violation of the University of Michigan’s official nondiscrimination policy. The difference is that it wasn’t recognized as a campus group and now it is — maybe.
InterVarsity’s national website tells of a much rosier ending to the saga. “The University of Michigan has re-recognized the Asian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter, creating an exemption to its non-discrimination policies to allow religious student organizations to use religious criteria in selecting their leaders,” a statement on the group’s website reads.
“We are grateful that the university has taken a common sense approach to this situation,” added Greg Jao, InterVarsity’s national field director.