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Gay student dismissed from Cornell Christian group

Gabriel Arana

April 24th, 2009

A maelstrom of controversy has erupted at Cornell University, where Chris Donohoe was dismissed from a leadership position at Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship after he came out as gay. The fellowship receives university funding and is headed by pastors Matt and Tracy Herman, who ultimately forced Donohoe out.

Yesterday, the Student Assembly, which doles out funds to campus organizations, suspended funding for the organization and called for an investigation into the incident. Chi Alpha is subject to Cornell’s nondiscrimination policy, which covers sexual orientation and gender identity. 

The Cornell Daily Sun published a wonderful editorial about it:

Those in Chi Alpha would say they gave Chris a choice to reject his sexual orientation and embrace god, or to embrace himself and reject the scripture. But no one at Cornell should be forced to make this choice — to deny who they are in order to gain acceptance from their peers. The University must monitor the role of religion on this campus and ensure that such discrimination does not occur.

Antigay responses to the incident have been typical: 1) the university in infringing on religious liberty 2) why aren’t gays tolerant of intolerance toward them?

In the same way that antigay religious groups argue that they have a right to assemble and set standards, the university has the right to do so as well. And because the religious organization operates under the auspices of the university, Cornell can impose restrictions on what the organization can do. In this case, the restriction is that no organization can discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. 

This rhetoric might sound conservative, but tolerating antigay views does not mean one has to accept them. Chi Alpha’s actions deserve excoriation; they are an embarrassment to the university. Outside the university’s purview it may be legal, albeit immoral, to kick someone out of an organization for being gay, but it seems that antigay activists view any criticism of their actions as an infringement on their religious liberty. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech do not grant immunity from criticism.

Comments

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AJD
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I think they know freedom of religion doesn’t grant immunity from criticism. It’s just that the religious right, being a group with power, has the sense of its power slipping away, and it’s reacting to that by saying that any challenge to its power is an infringement of its liberty.

The problem is that the religious right wants liberty for itself, but not for anyone else.

lurker
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

yes, what if a school-sanctioned gblt group expelled a Christian student from their group? That would be just as unacceptable.

Andrew
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

The source of funding makes the rules – we see that even in the public sphere and we know that.

But this is actually a very, very gray area. The reason that groups are allowed to restrict their membership is to maintain the sense of commonality that draws them together in the first place.

The question on many university campuses is how do you protect the membership roles of identity-based groups without engaging in reverse discrimination (e.g. how do you allow a women’s group to disallow men from joining, or a gay group to disallow straight members, or a black student’s group to disallow white students). The decision made by my university was to make exemptions to what they deemed “marginalized” (also known as whiny) groups… after the campus women’s group was challenged and lost their funding on the technical argument that they’re sexist.

I hated the “allow-me-to-discriminate-because-I’m-marginalized” argument when I was in school, in part because I found most of these identity-based groups so obnoxious and strident, and in part because they were effectively doing everything they argued against.

But what mechanism is there to prevent the effective take-over of a minority group by a majority group of students who do not share their organizing principles?

The University could make the argument that groups can only establish their guidelines to exclude characteristics intrinsic to the group’s purpose – that is, to disallow men from women’s groups, white students from a black group, buddhists from a mormon group. There are gay Christians, so effectively what the Christian group here has done is to restrict access to certain *kinds* of Christians, using a test that is not central to the group – because the group is not sufficiently explicit in their stated identity. Especially here, in a case where the individual is not an undermining force – he is a sincere Christian.

But a University Catholic group might have more luck – they could argue that they are following specific, externally defined tenets laid out that intrinsically impact the nature of their group – that allowing gay members effectively requires them to deviate from the religious doctrine around which they are centrally organized, one principle at a time.

GaySolomon
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Andrew writes:

“But a University Catholic group might have more luck – they could argue that they are following specific, externally defined tenets laid out that intrinsically impact the nature of their group…”

The Roman Catholic Church does not forbid a gay person from being or becoming a member of that church.

Consequently, they would have no basis whatsoever for exclusion – even if the gay individual was sexually active.

John
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I am not aware of minority or women’s groups at college campuses that have been taken over (or even been subjected to an attempted take over)by non-members of the target group of membership.

Also, when I was at Berkeley, I was under the impression that I could join any group I wanted to join. As an emaple, I am not sure it would make a whole lot of sense for a non-Korean to join the Korean Student Group, but I know that non-Korean boyfriends and girlfriends took part in their activities all the time.

John
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Andrew raises a good point about identity-based groups. Groups that wish to only consist of women, blacks, or Christians are misguided at best. A women’s group should be accepting of anyone with an interest women’s issues, a black group should be willing to accept anyone interested in black issues, and a Christian group should be willing to accept anybody interested in Christianity. Many gay groups are called Gay-Straight Alliances, and often times the “straight” part, and the “alliance” part get overlooked because of the scary “gay” part.

On our campus the only organizations with an exemption to the school’s discrimination policy were fraternities and sororities. They’re sort of a different animal in that they also provide housing.

It’s especially sad that these groups think that being Christian and being gay are mutually exclusive.

Ben in Oakland
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

If they are going to accept university funding, they must abide by university rules. lurkers point is well made.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Perhaps what we are missing is that Chi Alpha is not a “Christian group” but rather a “Conservative Christian group”. As such, Chris Donohoe was in violation of the commonly shared beliefs of the group – their central purpose.

And remember, the position that Chris lost was one leadership in a group organized for the purpose of religion. The leadership team consists of 12 or 13 especially dedicated students who lead bible studies, teach and are “good examples”. Surely if there is any position for which an argument can be made that he could not carry out the goals of the position, according to the shared faith and doctrine of the organization, this would be it. Having someone teaching and set up as a “good example” who disagrees with matters of doctrine with the organization is surely not wise, much less protected.

Personally, I think that any fraternity that seeks to limit membership to those who share a negative belief about homosexuality will soon go the way of the dodo, but they should be allowed to do so if they wish.

And if the school is funding Alpha Phi Alpha (black) and Alpha Epsilon Pi (Jewish), then I don’t see the rational basis on which to deny Chi Alpha.

Otherwise we’ll set precedent by which Delta Lambda Phi, the gay fraternity, is required to give positions of authority to members that convert to anti-gay theology and want to turn Rush over to Exodus.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I heartily disagree with you Tim (respectfully, of course). Chris wasn’t kicked out for having an idea; he was kicked out because 1) he was gay and 2) he accepted it. I don’t think an organization should be able to kick someone out for something they cannot control (i.e. their sexuality). I would rather have Exodus members infiltrate Delta Lambda Phi than have organization at Cornell free to discriminate against gay people.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Gabe,

Chi Alpha teaches that it is in violation of Scripture and Christian life to engage in same-sex sexual behavior AND ALSO in violation of Scripture and Christian life to accept an identity that affirms homosexuality.

Surely you will agree that this religious organization is entitled to have this belief? It’s hardly a revolutionary or unorthodox doctrine.

You argue that Donohoe cannot control his sexuality. And I agree that he cannot control his same-sex attractions. But he is able to determine his beliefs about those attractions and it is because of those beliefs that he was removed.

Had he told the leaders that he experienced attractions but that he was a “struggler” and “putting Christ first” and “an overcomer over sin” then they would have him give his testimony rather than remove him.

Which is their right, a right that I stongly defend.

To argue that a conservative Christian organization must allow a man who believes that homosexuality is not immoral in a position of teaching doctrine is to argue that a conservative Christian organization must allow a Pagan to teach. Or a Muslim.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Of course they have the right to discriminate if they are an independent, but the university has a right to forbid it if they have control over the organization. So if they want to do so, they can leave campus.

Priya Lynn
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy said “Surely you will agree that this religious organization is entitled to have this belief?”.

Hmmm….entitled to beliefs that contradict reality…I don’t know…maybe…

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Gabe,

I fear that your position may be an endorsement of a litmus test on theology, ie one must believe specific religious doctrines or else they must “leave campus”.

This is, to my understanding, ideologically – if not legally – inconsistent with the Establishment Clause of our Constitution, a protection that I hold dear.

If Cornell wishes to require that all organizations believe that homosexuality is moral (or immoral, for that matter) and that those who disagree are banned, I think New York State would have to cease the funding of its contract colleges.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I want us to be cautious. We ought not take positions base on “gay v. conservative” but instead look to our principles. Otherwise we are little better than Maggie Gallagher.

If we do truly believe in religious freedom – and I do – and we truly believe that each person is responsible to live according to their on conscience – and I do – then we have to believe this even when we disagree with their conscience.

Jaft
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Tim, upon typing up a response that disagreed with you, I have come to a conclusion of agreeing. While we all would agree that public institutions that receive funding ought to catter to all, the group is for a specific sub-set. So long as the members don’t turn to harrassment and descrimination in other facets of college life, their leadership should be allowed to be composed as they wish.

Of course, this also allows for the creation of a KKK group (for the sake of allowing all viewpoints (I’m being serious) and leads to an intriguing conversation about how far beliefs are allowed on a campus) so long as the only restriction to non-white students is in membership, like the Christian group.

As you said, likelihood is the group will die out. But somehow, now, I feel the question could be probed further (forgive my own typed out thought process).

Regan DuCasse
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I don’t think I’d have a problem if those beliefs were consistent and they discriminated against all those who are a part of their long list.

Apparently they only seem to ‘get religion’ when the smell of a gay person is in the air.

The societies of the Biblical age differ very little from fundamentalist Islam now.
How women and homosexuality were and ARE responded to has changed little

However, everything we do as human beings, interacting with each other out of necessity is inevitable.

One’s religious choice and religion’s evolution are examples of progressive change in how we can coexist without reactionary and continued brutality.

Homosexuality and transgenderism haven’t changed much at all. These are aspects of the human condition that are constant.

Which is why, I trust my life among gay people and the transgendered, FAR more than I would those whose religious beliefs, behaviors and sense of worth and power…changes like the tides.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

It’s not a litmus test on theology, but a standard of practice. They can say or believe what they want, but allowing a religious group to put discrimination into practice is a different matter. Now what Chi Alpha did was not illegal, but it was inconsistent with what the university believes; the university has a right to sanction them.

As regards legality, New York state institutions are not allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians (it’s the law here).

Further, the establishment clause governs the government’s relations with religion, not private institutions; it makes no sense for one to say that the relationship of a non-governmental agency and a religious group “ideologically” violates the establishment clause.

And if you are referring to the contract colleges, the establishment clause should actually preclude the presence of public-funded religious groups at universities in the same way that it should preclude the existence of a religious office in the White House (which, unfortunately, currently exists).

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Regan,

I very much suspect that if Chi Alpha had a Bible Study leader that was teaching that pre-marital sex was OK that they’d insist they step down as well. Or if the leader disavowed the diety of Christ or if he just stopped attending church services. Religious organizations tend to insist that those who teach are in agreement with the groups teachings.

It’s only a story because Donohoe is gay.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Don’t fall into the trap of conflating this situation as being a First Amendment issue. It’s not.

The issues is not one of “association” and being free to associate with whom one wants (i.e. organizational membership), nor is it an issue of being able to express one’s opinions and beliefs about homosexuality.

The issue is, instead, as it is in the larger society, whether or not PUBLICLY FUNDED groups should be allowed to discriminate at will a group of people.

Chi Alpha is perfectly able to “expel” anyone they choose, if they’re willing to give up the public funding. They could still be recognized as a legitimate campus group. That recognition is not at issue. It’s their continued funding that’s at issue.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Thank you, Stefano, for taking the words out of my mouth. Why in the world should my tax dollars be funding an organization that discriminates against me?

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

cf the rulings regarding the Boy Scouts of America, their recognition as a legitimate organization and who they are legally able to deny membership vs. what funding they may receive and under what circumstances. Same as with the “pavillion” issues.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Gabe,

Let me ask you a question:

What if Donohoe was heterosexual and was removed from leadership because he was teaching pro-gay theology?

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Also, keep in mind that Chi Alpha is not being removed from campus or denied a presence, i.e., again, campus recognition of the group and/or their presence on campus is not being denied.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I have a question.

I am unsure, was Donohoe only dismissed from his leadership position on the grounds that he could not/did not represent the espoused values the group wishes to uphold or was he also expelled from Chi Alpha?

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Tim, I still think it would be wrong. Isn’t the purpose of diversity at colleges to make people who don’t agree with each other talk to each other? Why couldn’t it be a springboard for dialogue? Are Christians afraid of their beliefs being challenged?

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy said “Surely you will agree that this religious organization is entitled to have this belief?”.

Their entitlement to hold and express beliefs is not at issue. Their entitlement to university funding (ie public funding) with regard to their actions based on beliefs is the issue.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

If we do truly believe in religious freedom – and I do – and we truly believe that each person is responsible to live according to their on conscience – and I do – then we have to believe this even when we disagree with their conscience.

Again, you’re conflating issues.

Freedom of association and speech, or the right to practice one’s religion is not at issue with Chi Alpha. Nor is the issue whether or not they should be able to have a campus presence or be recognized as a legitimate entity. The issue is whether or not the university should provide them public funding unless the group conforms to university policies regarding non-discrimination.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Me: What if Donohoe was heterosexual and was removed from leadership because he was teaching pro-gay theology?

Gabe: Tim, I still think it would be wrong.

Gabe, you are saying that Chi Alpha must be forced to teach a pro-gay theology or lose its funds, whether Donohoe is gay or not.

In that case, the discrimination is not based on orientation, but rather based on viewpoint. And it is not Donohoe who is being discriminated against, but Chi Alpha.

That troubles me and I would encourage you to rethink this.

Isn’t the purpose of diversity at colleges to make people who don’t agree with each other talk to each other? Why couldn’t it be a springboard for dialogue? Are Christians afraid of their beliefs being challenged?

I don’t like the idea of “making people” do much of anything. But I don’t think that you are really advocating for talking or true dialogue. You are advocating for the punishment of those with whom you disagree.

There’s not much point in having discussions when the end result is “change your religious views to be pro-gay or you don’t get funded”.

When conservatives talk about enforced conformity on campuses and in an organized squelching of conservative views, this is the sort of thing they are talking about. This is exactly the situation that should enrage libertarians as well as liberals and anyone else who believes in individualism and civil liberties.

I believe that pro-gay theology will win in the long run. When confronted with real-life situations, anti-gay positions are hard to reconcile with the underlying core of Christian thought.

But we will win because we are right, not because we will punish anyone who disagrees with us.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

From the editorial…

Donohoe is an activist. He sought to climb the ranks of Chi Alpha, thinking it would be “aweseome” to be a gay man in a devoutly Christian group. He wanted to prove that he loved God, but that he also loved men, and that that was OK. But what was a just cause in his mind was an abomination — by accepting his sexuality, Donohoe was effectively giving up on overcoming what was seen as sinful by his Christian cohorts.

Just as an aside…

If this truly was the case, then he should have been removed from his leadership position (as would be the case in Timothy’s example of a gay fraternity removing from leadership someone promoting ex-gay beliefs) not because of his beliefs/orientation but because of deception and the duplicitousness of joining the organization under a false pretense.

Which is why I was asking if he was actually expelled from Chi Alpha or just removed from his leadership position.

That deception would be true for either a pro-gay group example like Timothy gave or in the case of Chi Alpha. The issue then wouldn’t be the individuals beliefs or lack of belief but the acts of deception in originally pledging to uphold the bi-laws and regulations of the organization. I.E., the joining of the group under false pretence for being the grounds for removal from leadership. And that’s a separate issue from being denied membershp altogether.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Chi Alpha and Donohoe are not one in the same. And I do think there should be certain standards for behavior. The organization can preach what it wants, but it should be forced to accept those who may disagree. If you don’t like it, go to a Christian school.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Incidentally, we should note that Donohoe – as best I can find – was not removed from Chi Alpha. Rather, he was removed from teaching and leading Bible Study.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Should Chi Alpha be forced to accept those who may disagee in positions of leadership and teaching?

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

There’s not much point in having discussions when the end result is “change your religious views to be pro-gay or you don’t get funded”.

So, then, you are perfectly comfortable with church owned pavillions open to the public being able to deny SSM to lesbian couples and in complete disagreemeent with the court decision that removed their funding?

I take it then, that you are also in complete disagreement with Catholic Charity Adoption Agencies being denied funding and allowing them to deny adoption to same sex couples if they receive funding?

I take it then, that you are also in complete disagreement with all racial and religious-based anti-discrimination legislation regarding funding? E.G. Faith-based communities should be able to deny charitable services to anyone that don’t conform to their religious beliefs? For example food pantries, prision inmate programs, etc.

I also take it, then, that you would also be in favour of gay-run and operated HIV/AIDS programs being able to deny services to those of religious faith but still receive public funds?

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Yes, I think so. Especially at an educational institution, ideological conformity should not be a prerequisite for participation. But this is why there are different types of schools. If I went to Cornell (and I did), I would want Donohoe to be able to continue to teach and participate. Why would one force an institution to accept practices that are against its values?

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

You’re continuing to conflate the issue of being able to hold or express a belief with the issue of being publicly funded.

You are not entitled to public funding without conditions. You are entitled by right to hold and express beliefs outside of those situations.

Your above arguments seem to try to make the case for the abolition of all conditions regarding the receipt of public funding as it relates to anti-discrimination legislation regardless of the class of discrimination, ie whether it’s ethnicity, religion, gender, age, etc.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I really don’t have a problem with Donohoe being “impeached” for his acts of deception. But as I indicated, that’s a separate issue than if he’d been expelled from Chi Alpha altogether.

I think we should also keep in mind that the funding for Chi Alpha is a temporary suspencion. It could be restored if the investigation decides that since he was not expelled but “removed from office” for his acts of deception, Chi Alpha didn’t breach non-discrimination standards.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I should say “alleged acts of deception”, as it was the editorial that made such an insinuation.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Stefano,

With all respect, I think it is you that is conflating the issue.

I see discrimination against classes of persons as quite different than discrimination against ideology and viewpoint.

If Chi Alpha said, “You must leave the organization because you are same-sex attracted and we don’t allow any same-sex attracted persons” then we would be in agreement.

What they said was, in effect, “you are accepting your gay identity and are not expressing any intent to be celibate for life and because this is in conflict with our faith you cannot be a teacher or lead Bible study”.

Those are very different things.

You see, just because I am gay doesn’t mean that I insist that every same-sex attracted person must embrace their orientation or that they believe that same-sex sexual actions are not inherently immoral. I think it is best if they do and there’s no reason not to but I offer them the same self determination that I demand for myself.

Gabe Arana
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Sure, you can be in our group as long as you hate yourself — sounds reasonable.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy — What they said was, in effect, “you are accepting your gay identity and are not expressing any intent to be celibate for life and because this is in conflict with our faith you cannot be a teacher or lead Bible study”.

Stefano — I really don’t have a problem with Donohoe being “impeached” for his acts of deception. But as I indicated, that’s a separate issue than if he’d been expelled from Chi Alpha altogether.

You’re above arguments, however, to Gabe did not appear to be making that distinction, but instead making an argument that organizations (at least religious ones) should be able to discriminate and receive public funding by granting them “special exemptions” for their “conscience” that we would never allow to other groups such as exempting the Aryan Brotherhood owned/operated organizations , etc., by saying they were entitled to discriminate because of their special “conscience”.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I see discrimination against classes of persons as quite different than discrimination against ideology and viewpoint.

I’ll have to mull that over for a while, considering religion anti-discrimnation would fall in my mind under the same or at least similar anti-discrimiatnion classifications as not being able to discriminate in employment, for instance, based upon political party affiliation. Both religious belief and political party affiliations are based on ideological beliefs.

Timothy (TRiG)
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Hang on a minute.

I can see why a college would supply some funds to student groups. And, if we’re to be non-discriminatory, all student groups should be equally funded, so long as they (a) are open to anyone who wants to join, and (b) elect members by free and fair democratic measures.

So anyone may join Chi Alpha, but we’ll assume that the majority of the members will be conservative Christians. (If not, the purpose of the group changes, which isn’t a problem. Conservative Christians can then found a new group.)

Leaders are elected by membership. So there’s no technical barrier to prevent a Muslim becoming the president of Chi Alpha, but it’s not likely to happen. He probably won’t join the group in the first place, and he won’t get many votes if he does.

Fine. All fine. No violations of anything.

So a gay Christian can join Chi Alpha, and can stand for office, and won’t get elected. This is not a problem. An actual technical barrier demanding that members sign a statement of faith is, or should be, contrary to university policy, however, and such a group should not receive university funding.

***

I’m just wondering how this guy got elected to a leadership position in the first place. If he concealed his sexuality, I can see how that might lead to a problem. Sexuality may be an actual barrier to office (i.e., you won’t get voted for), but it cannot be a technical barrier. So there is no valid mechanism in place to depose him. Perhaps student groups should be allowed to call extraordinary elections without disqualifying themselves from receiving university funds.

TRiG.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Perhaps you should read my previous postings more carefully. I don’t propose special exemptions for anyone.

Timothy Kincaid
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

I actually have perspective that is unique. I have personally been on both sides of this situation.

When I was in college I was the president of a political student group. And while our Student Government did not pay for operational costs, it did provide funding for specific programs and events out of student fees. And we, like other groups, applied for funds to bring speakers to campus or to host events.

During that year the student government was not favorable to the political ideology of my organization. And some of those on the committee that doled out student dollars were very inclined to think that they didn’t want to pay for our viewpoint to be heard.

The following year I was elected to student government as part of a slate and those who shared my politics then dominated the campus. I was the chair of the committee that oversaw the budget and was the one who had to be convinced about the appeal of specific student funding.

I’ll admit that it was tempting to base my appropriations on the politics of the recipient. But I found that thinking abhorent and tried very hard to be impartial. Ultimately, I think we provided more funds to the view I didn’t share than to my own.

So, having been on both sides, it very much troubles me when some my community seem to genuinely believe that student fees should be allocated based on the recipient’s beliefs.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

TRiG

That raises something that has been being overlooked.

Donohoe may well have been elected by the Chi Alpha student body, but according to the editorial linked to he wasn’t deposed by the student body. He was deposed by Chi Alpha’s pastors, Matt and Tracy Herman, who unilaterally took it upon themselves to remove Donohoe from his post without the approval of any of the group’s student members.

Priya Lynn
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Stefano makes themost sense to me. The university should not have to provide them public funding unless the group conforms to university policies regarding non-discrimination.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

So, having been on both sides, it very much troubles me when some my community seem to genuinely believe that student fees should be allocated based on the recipient’s beliefs.

I don’t think Cornell is allocating funding based on beliefs, they are allocating funding to organizations based on whether or not the organization conforms to anti-discriminaion policies.

For example, Chi Alpha is not being deprived funding because they do not conform to someone else’s notion of “true Christianity” (i.e., you’re not Methodist but Nazarine so you don’t get funded or you’re not Republican rather than Democratic so you don’t get funded.)

I really have a problem with the notion that simply because it is a religious belief it is somehow above having to comply with non-discrimination policies regarding sexual-orientation. That’s why I refer to “religious concscious” exemptions as being granted “special privileges” because as I mentioned, we’d never consider giving similar “conscious” exemptions to those who would like to discriminate against Jews or Muslims or Catholics or racists whose beliefs are based on their “conscience” beliefs.

That said, I have a difficult time understanding why Donohoe would have wanted to join Chi Alpha in the first place.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Oh! And the flip side of this is that Chi Alpha would have been fully aware of Cornell’s policies when they applied for formal recognition and funding eligility. So from that perspective, Chi Alpha themselves, by applying for recognition by Cornell, would have agreed to conform to Cornell’s policies. But because they’a “religious” organization now think they should be exempted.

Priya Lynn
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

That’s right Stefano, so many seem to think its honourable to allow people a religious exemption to discriminate against gays or married same sex couples, but no one would think its honourable to allow a reigious exemption to discriminate against blacks or jews – quite a double standard.

Stefano A
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

That’s right Stefano, so many seem to think its honourable to allow people a religious exemption to discriminate against gays or married same sex couples, but no one would think its honourable to allow a reigious exemption to discriminate against blacks or jews – quite a double standard.

Indeed!

And Chi Alpha is not being told they cannot be a formally recognized organization on campus because of their beliefs. The only caveat is the conditions placed on funding. The same caveat that the courts have applied in cases such as the “wedding pavillion”, adoption charities, or other faith-based social service organizations.

With regard to addressing the issue of being deposed from office vs. being expelled from Chi Alpha, however, faith-based social service organizations, I think, in some situations are allowed to discriminate in terms of hiring, and still receive funding. I’m not clear on when they are and are not allowed to do that and still receive funding. So with regard to Donohoe specifically that type of situation might be more applicable to this situation.

Joe Allen Doty
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Chi Alpha Fellowship is a General Council of the Assemblies of God organization for AG students in secular colleges.

I belonged to a Chi Alpha group when I was a student at Northeastern State College in Tahlequah, Oklahoma in the 1960s. In fact I was the founding President in the fall of 1963 and was the president for 3 semesters. The office was taken over by the VP since my last semester was off campus doing intern teaching.

The Assemblies of God has an official Position Paper on Homosexuality that was adopted in 1979 and revised in recent years but it is full of sterero typical language.

Joe Allen Doty
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

By the way, we never met on campus and we met in a local church. I was a member of it again during the school year of 1968-69 when I went back to work on a Master of Education degree. During all of those years, the college didn’t give money to the organization. The group raised their own monies.

I don’t when it happened; but, several years after that, the group ceased to exist. But, in the 1990s, there was a new Chi Alpha group. They had no record of the original group existing when I corresponded with them. They now have a place to meet off campus.

Ephilei
April 24th, 2009 | LINK

Wow. I couldn’t read everything, but I have a couple personal experiences.

My high school had a Muslim Club where I, for a year, attended weekly as a devout (and rather loud) Christian. There were happy to have me as well as a Hindu that came sparingly. The Jewish group was equally welcoming. The larger your audience, the larger your pulpit.

My Christian college necessitated that chartered organizations not exclude any group of people. Thus the women’s group could not kick out men. While I have an interest in all things gender, their patriarchal values disgusted me. I attended once and left early because I chose to, not because they kicked me out. When a group spews out adverse values, why would you want to stay? Unlike the Internet, college groups have an extra incentive against making trouble – your reputation and friendships with those in the group. After kicking up a little feminist dust in the women’s group, I decided I’d rather not be perceived as the loudmouth jerk.

My opinion on Chi Alpha is that a student group (if they receive schools funds or favors) should not exclude attendance but may exclude leadership for any reason. If Chris wants to go hear anti-gay lectures, no one should stop him. And Chi Alpha should have the freedom to choose any leadership. And the next time Chi Alpha’s charter comes up for renewal, Cornell has the freedom to fund or not fund that leadership and those lectures.

Lynn David
April 25th, 2009 | LINK

Yikes…. I don’t know what everyone has said, there isn’t enough time in the day for that. So, I’ll just have my own say.

Even among Conservative Christians (which I would include Catholics) being gay is not a sin. Coming out as gay doesn’t admit to any sin, it may only be an admission that one recognizes one’s attractions and accepts that fact. Now yes, some Christians bristle at that. But there is no sin by any reading of the Bible which is then committed…. so why should he be denied by the group? Frankly, I think Chi Alpha likely broke their own rules.

Timothy (TRiG)
April 25th, 2009 | LINK

Stephano:

Donohoe may well have been elected by the Chi Alpha student body, but according to the editorial linked to he wasn’t deposed by the student body. He was deposed by Chi Alpha’s pastors, Matt and Tracy Herman, who unilaterally took it upon themselves to remove Donohoe from his post without the approval of any of the group’s student members.

Well, as far as I’m concerned, that settles it. Non-democratic groups shouldn’t get University funding. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

TRiG.

Roberta
April 25th, 2009 | LINK

If you are going to report on an issue, at least report accurately. Chris was not kicked out of Chi Alpha. He was asked to step down from a leadership position because he did not support the doctrinal beliefs of the Chi Alpha Christian group.

Andrew
April 26th, 2009 | LINK

My goodness there has been a lot of back and forth on this issue.

Reading Stefano and Tim, I have to question whether any organization that seeks to promote aggressively negative policies that impact fellow students outside their group should be suprised when they are restricted on campuses. I would argue that this organization, by taking a stance that was actively hostile to a constitutive characteristic of students outside their group was implicitly harrassing other students and impacting their student experience. I know if I were paying what it costs to attend Cornell and had to deal with these jerks on campus telling me how worthless I was, and worse, had to pay to support them, I might have to reconsider whether my school really had my interests at heart.

I don’t see any organizations on campuses that take the stance that being Christian is something that needs to be remedied. One might lobby conservative Christians to reconsider their stance and behavior as it pertains to homosexuality, but that’s not at all the same thing – you don’t see organizations that attempt to encourage anyone to walk away from their faith, just to temper some of their comments.

If we swapped “gay” for “black”, that group would be barred from campus altogether. I think that a university does have the right to restrict speech that impacts individuals outside the group – that is, “hate” speech (I use the term loosely) – to the point that the university should not be cowed into lending their good name, their floor space, or their funding to the promotion of intolerance.

Now, that’s a very fine line between academic freedom and censorship. But what gives anyone the right to attack other students – not for their beliefs, but for their identity? Regardless of the treatment of the student in question, the organization should have been politely asked to refrain from creating a hostile environment – there is plenty else to discuss about their own faith, it baffles me that they feel the need to attack others. On the matter of homosexuality, perhaps, they could just remain silent. This business of every controversial issue requiring equal representation of voices on both sides – even if one side is lunatic fringe, and the other side is main stream – lends credence to groups bent on driving marginalized others out of the public square, and that has a real impact in terms of student health and performance.

No group has the right to intolerance, and the “intolerance of intolerance” is not itself aggressive nor intolerant. It’s a refusal to be bullied.

Algy
April 26th, 2009 | LINK

Personally, if I were Donohoe, I would have no desire to even associate with such vitriolic souls. Let Chi Alpha preach their hate all they want. Donohoe should get a Christian club founded on campus that accepts everybody, prove that being gay and Christian are not mutually exclusive, and then see how the campus opinion of Chi Alpha sours.

Let them discriminate all they want, just as long as they’re being compared to a group that doesn’t.

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