By Brandon Abbs
My mother has long held a job at Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a Christian organization that works on college campuses to help students grow in their relationships with God. Intervarsity clubs are at universities all over the U.S. (over six-hundred in total). My mother herself was on one of these clubs when she was in college.
To intrude on the sanctity of this club would obviously be intruding on the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which must be included in a democratic society. If one doesn’t have freedom of religion, one similarly can’t have freedom of non-religion. If you keep church out of state, you also must keep state out of church. Unfortunately for the basic civil liberties of the American, many universities in California are not complying with this basic nation-upholding rule. Yes: California State University has derecognized the local chapters of Intervarsity at all twenty-three of their campuses. This is… infuriating in the least. Why would they do this?
Intervarsity chapters require those in leadership positions to be Christians. Apparently, this somehow discriminates against those who are not Christian – so, Intervarsity had to go. It’s finished. That is simply ridiculous. Why would anyone who wants to even be involved in Intervarsity not be Christian? Does the existence of Intervarsity in a college somehow exclude other clubs from existing there, limiting the options of those who don’t want to be part of Intervarsity? Nope. What California State has done is a disgusting infringement on an indispensable part of the allotted rights of the U.S. citizen. Also, it has done this to purportedly promote fairness and equality on its campuses, yet in the process taken away basic rights that hold faith on an equal par with non-faith. That is hypocrisy at its most basic. This situation has somehow not yet been rectified, and it does not seem as if it will be anytime soon. Why do the anti-freedom-of-religion whims of those in charge of California State uptake the (waveringly) solid foundation on which the country stands? To me, this signifies a general moving away from the respecting of this simple freedom in our country, which could potentially lead to an aspect of the United States being built on tyranny. A country that does not have religious freedom is despicable and, in my humble opinion, uninhabitable.
BHS itself also has a faith-allowing institution (run by the students, of course), its local Bible study group, the Interfaith Club (called the Interfaith Club, of course, because it celebrates only one faith). This meets on Thursday mornings during the time allotted by late start. Will our own respectable school soon continue the current trend of limiting inimitable freedoms of religion by no longer allowing the… er… Interfaith Club to exist?
To aid me in writing this editorial, I attended the most recent meeting of this Bible study to see how it functioned as an independent student-led faith-celebrating body not yet unallowed by the school. I came expecting it to be attended also by Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Utilitarians and Atheists as well as Christians due to its intentionally misleading title, and found a loosely organized Bible study. There were donuts and an intriguingly faith-filled electricity in the air. We read Bible verses, had a lesson and prayed, and had fun doing it.
After the meeting was over, I asked a member of the club, Emily Dremel, what led her to join.
¨I thought it would be a really good experience to …interact with other kids that have the same faith that I do,¨ she said. ¨I think the student-led experience is really important [for the club]…[It’s] cool to have a leadership role in something you feel so strongly about.¨
This Bible study is slowly burgeoning just below the surface of the mainstream BHS environment; thus, obviously, they are ever looking for new members. Besides me, there were slightly over a dozen people at this meeting, and they were evidently very passionate about the club.
This club wouldn’t, it appears, be something our school would want to be actively involved in; it’s too nonsecular. To me, though, it’s a good thing on the school’s part that it is allowing it to exist. Still, the school isn’t asserting complete free reign on this club like it does other clubs, unfortunately. It forces the club to call itself the Interfaith Club and not what it really is: a Bible study.
When I was done talking to Dremel, I addressed two other integral members of the club, James Carr and Caitlin Smith, about the name dispute.
¨Yeah, they make us call it [the Interfaith Club],¨ Carr told me. ¨They don’t really like us to call it Bible Study.¨
How is it acceptable for the school to influence this student-led club in this way? Why do they do it? Most likely because they want to avoid controversy. Yet, any controversy over this would be ridiculous and another show of the ever-increasing intolerance of society in this day and age.
¨[The school administration] don’t really like us…but, you know, whatever,¨ Smith added to the fold. Despite the burgeoning persecution, the members of the club continue to be resilient: this is what I took from my attendance of the meeting.
Why, I ask, is there so little exposure for the currently dwindling religious freedoms in America? Avoidance of controversy, the voices in my head answer. Why would there be controversy? Freedom of religion in our country is intended to limit this controversy; it’s intended to promote tolerance, not intolerance.
Situations like the one with Intervarsity at California State go generally unnoticed and unobjected to; yet, when similar gross segregation is placed on other beliefs (Atheism), uproarious calls to arms for religious freedom inundate the media. But the freedom of not being oppressed by faith is only a part of the welcome far-extending arm of religious freedoms. They mean we need to be tolerant of unreligion and religion.
How would the school respond if I began an Atheist’s Society? Would they be more tolerant of that, do you think? Wouldn’t they change the name of that? No, as they shouldn’t; that would be tossing out religious freedoms – but it’s no different in the cases of Intervarsity and the ¨Interfaith Club.¨ Tolerance is not tolerance unless it is universal.