Yale, the home of some of the most infamous secret societies in the country (like the one portrayed in the 2000 teen-thriller The Skulls), decided last week to deny official recognition to a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), because the fraternity requires members and leaders to share a common Christian faith. Of course, Skull and Bones and its peers won’t suffer a similar fate because they are off-campus groups. But students who want the rights and privileges of being an on-campus group (use of the university name, access to funds, and other resources) must pledge not to discriminate on a host of legal statuses, including religion. Because BYX wants to make sure its members are more interested in Christ than social status, Yale says its membership standards violate the university’s anti-discrimination policy, particularly the prohibition on religious discrimination.
Aside from the obvious double standard embedded in Yale’s policy (doesn’t denying recognition to a religious group violate the anti-discrimination policy’s ban on religious discrimination?), Yale’s move is especially unsettling given that its roots lie in training clergy and its alumni include Jonathan Edwards. It is true that Yale may make discriminatory decisions with regard to student groups because it is a private university. But it has renounced its history in so doing. Instead of accepting student groups who rally around a religious idea, just as the college itself did through much of its history, it excludes them. That is unfortunate. No doubt, Christians will continue to attend Yale, but maybe they should consider whether they’ll get better treatment in Cambridge.