Federal Court Nixes UNC Policy Over Religious “Non-Discrimination”

Fraternity Prevails Against UNC Non-Discrimination Policy

– Judge Agrees: Brothers Can Dwell Together in Unity and Remain Distinctly Christian

By Jim Brown – February 22, 2005

(AgapePress) – A Christian group is celebrating an early victory in its battle against the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. The school has been dealt a major legal blow in its quest to continue implementing a non-discrimination policy that bars Christian student groups from limiting their membership to Christians.

Last August, the Christian fraternity Alpha Iota Omega filed a lawsuit against UNC after being denied recognition as an official student organization. The fraternity is challenging a university policy that would require the group to admit non-Christian members. And, recently, a federal judge in Greensboro ordered UNC to sign a consent decree agreeing to change the policy by the end of the month.

Attorney Jordan Lorence with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) is representing Alpha Iota Omega and believes the judge’s order is a clear victory for free speech — one that corrects what could have been a dangerous precedent. “We don’t want the next generation of leaders who are going to school at America’s universities to think that it’s normal and okay and appropriate to force private organizations to accept people that don’t agree with their beliefs in the name of diversity,” the attorney says.

It seems that scenario has been averted at UNC-Chapel Hill. If the university does not act, Lorence says the judge will likely grant Alliance Defense Fund’s request to stop the school from enforcing its anti-discrimination policy as it is currently stated. “What we want in our consent order is for UNC to change its policies,” the ADF counsel explains, “to make it clear that the private organizations have the final say. They make the final determination whether somebody actually believes what their group says or not, or if their behavior is inconsistent or not with what the group is advocating — and not the government.”

Christian groups at other universities around the U.S., such as Tufts, Rutgers, and Ohio State, have been charged with discrimination for not admitting homosexual members. ADF has been involved in numerous similar cases, in which university officials have sought to require Christian organizations to agree to policies similar to the one at UNC-Chapel Hill — policies that would force them to open membership or leadership positions to those who do not subscribe to or even agree with their biblical beliefs.

When Alpha Iota Omega filed suit against UNC in August, North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones accused the university of singling out Christian young people for discrimination, while the university argued that its policy exists to prevent groups from discriminating. But Lorence says the fraternity, like all the other student organizations at UNC, “simply wants leaders that have the same purpose and goals.” The ADF spokesman says his clients prevailed in court for a very simple reason — that it is hard for any logical person to understand why a group should be forced to accept a policy that undermines its very reason for existence.

Jim Brown, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online. Fred Jackson is news director for American Family Radio News.

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