I’ll admit it. I have mixed feelings about Stanford. Sure, it’s a great academic institution with cutting edge research facilities (hey, no other institution has the longest linear accelerator in the world on campus!). But I’ve never liked Stanford’s mascot, which is a goofy dancing tree. I know that hurts the feelings of some of our readers, but I’m sorry. I know the tree is not your fault. This week Stanford gave me another reason to pause when Rev. Scotty McLennan (author of Jesus Was a Liberal) from Stanford’s Office of Religious Life, announced that Stanford intends to interfere with the leadership decisions of its religious student organizations on campus.
The Stanford Review reports that, to the surprise of most students, Stanford has an all-comers policy that requires student organizations to open their membership roles to all students. Stanford’s policy is similar to the one the Supreme Court upheld last term in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, except that the text of Stanford’s policy applies only to membership, not leadership. That is about to end.
According to Rev. McLennan, Stanford now intends to interpret its policy also applying to leadership decisions of religious student organizations. Rev. McLennan believes this will not affect the operation of student groups: “You’re not going to worry about the organization electing somebody who doesn’t stand for what the organization is all about.” But McLennan says Stanford will step in if it receives a complaint that someone was rejected from a leadership position for religious or moral reasons:
“I think the way it would come up is if a complainant came to us and said ‘I’ve tried to become a leader at—say—InterVarsity, I happen to be gay, and they said to me ‘Sorry we cannot make you a leader because you’re gay.’” Only then does he believe the University might interfere with the functioning of religious groups.
In other words, Christian student groups at Stanford have no right to select leaders who share their same beliefs. Just another reason I don’t like that tree.