Influential columnist George F. Will wrote a column last week criticizing Vanderbilt University’s decision to force student-led religious groups on campus to accept nonbelievers as members in order to stay meeting on campus. His insightful opinions piece explains why the Constitution forbids such actions by public universities, and why it is unwise for private universities, like Vanderbilt, to pursue such ill-conceived policies:
Illustrating an intellectual confusion common on campuses, Vanderbilt University says: To ensure “diversity of thought and opinion” we require certain student groups, including five religious ones, to conform to the university’s policy that forbids the groups from protecting their characteristics that contribute to diversity.
Although a private university is under no obligation to obey the Constitution ( because the Constitution restrains only governmental power), Vanderbilt should take a lead in building diversity in the marketplace of ideas by allowing religious groups to require that their members and officers to agree with the beliefs and advocacy of the organization. That is what most other campus groups regularly do at Vanderbilt and elsewhere. Why should only religious groups be forced to accept people who disagree with the group’s beliefs?
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