Bowdoin College’s evangelical group will no longer be recognized by the college starting next fall. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the college is demanding that any student should be able to run for leadership for any student group, regardless of his or her religious beliefs, but the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship disagrees.
“It would compromise our ability to be who we are as Christians if we can’t hold our leaders to some sort of doctrinal standard,” recent Bowdoin graduate and former leader of BCF Zackary Suhr told The New York Times.
The incident at Bowdoin has occurred at many other colleges and universities in recent years. While the universities present the absolute non-discrimination demands as an effort to rid their campuses of intolerance and exclusivity, religious students see it as an encroachment on their religious freedom perpetrated by liberal academia who are hostile toward conservative Christianity.
A study done by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research found that college faculty share significantly more negative feelings toward Evangelical Christians than toward any other religious group, with 53 percent reporting that had unfavorable feelings toward Evangelicals. This is compared to just 3 percent who have unfavorable feelings toward Jews, 9 percent toward non-Evangelical Christians, and 10 percent toward Atheists. According to the study, these negative feelings are noted across disciplines and demographic factors. The study also found that the faculty are much less religious than the general public.
Evangelical and other religious groups say they welcome anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or religious beliefs to participate in their activities. But their leaders, who oversee Bible studies and prayer services, should have at least a basic Christian faith, the groups insist.
Losing official school recognition can have real consequences for these religious groups. Often they lose the right to use the universities’ names, on-campus recruiting tools, and access to student activity funds or subsidized spaces for meetings and worship.
The California State University public system, which includes almost 450,000 students on 23 campuses, is also joining the campaign against evangelical groups. If Cal State’s chancellor has it his way, evangelical groups will also lose official recognition this summer due to their refusal to sign non-discrimination forms regarding the selection of their groups’ leaders.