Good news from Tufts in the battle for the rights of student organizations on campus. The Boston Globe is reporting that Tufts University has reversed its earlier decision to require the student chapter of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship to permit students who do not believe in the Christian faith to join. Here is a report on the earlier decision by Tufts student government to impose that requirement on Inter-Varsity.
Tufts is now treating the religious groups the same as all other groups on campus. Tufts does not require other student groups to accept students as members who disagree with the views advocated by the group. For example, Tufts allows feminist groups to require its members to believe in feminism, environmental groups can require its members to oppose pollution, etc.
However, the decision is not perfect. Student religious groups will have to submit their faith requirements for membership to the University Chaplain for evaluation. An official statement, from the Tufts Daily, states: “The University Chaplain will now be charged with the responsibility of evaluating the legitimacy of the justification, and the TCUJ [the student judicial body that de-recognized the Tufts Christian group] will be charged with the responsibility of ensuring plainspoken transparency.” Again, other groups do not have to submit their requirements that members agree with the beliefs advocated by the organization to any Tufts official for evaluation. Tufts should trust student religious groups with the same freedom it grants to other student organizations.
As a private school, Tufts does not have to obey the First Amendment. However, a university like Tufts, that desires to encourage robust debate on campus, must allow private student groups to require its members and officers to agree with the ideas they promote. Forcing campus groups to accept as members people who disagree with them will inevitably drain the vitality from the marketplace of ideas there by converting every group into a bland conglomeration of people for and against a certain point of view.
Tufts has recognized the importance of protecting the right of a private voluntary student organization to choose what it stands for, and therefore, to limit its membership to those who agree with them. With this decision, Tufts took a major step to advance the right of association and religious liberty.
This post originally appeared here.