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Tufts Christian Fellowship will not seek Judiciary recognition

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 01:03

Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) leaders announced yesterday that the group will not reapply for (TCU) Judiciary recognition despite a policy created for religious groups by the Committee on Student Life in December that would have allowed TCF to reapply without changing unconstitutional clauses in its governing documents.

The clauses in question require TCF leaders to uphold a certain set of religious beliefs, including those that implicitly reject homosexual activity as unacceptable behavior for potential leaders. The Judiciary ruled this fall that such clauses violated the TCU Constitution’s nondiscrimination clause, and in response to an appeal to that ruling the CSL created a new rule allowing for ‘justifiable departure’ from the university’s nondiscrimination policy in the case that religious groups were able to prove their faith’s doctrine merited exemption from the policy.

In an email to the Judiciary yesterday morning, the last day of a 60-day period granted by CSL for the group to make the decision, the group cited the CSL policy’s failure to make a distinction between sexual orientation and sexual expression as its reason for not employing it to apply for re-recognition.

“Our desire for every leader is to submit their sexual expression to the will of God,” senior Ezichi Ednah Nwafor, one of six members of TCF’s leadership board, or Vision and Planning Team, said. “We wouldn’t be able to really make that distinction if we put together expression and orientation under one category.”

Had TCF chosen to reapply, according to Judiciary chair Adam Sax, a senior, the policy would have allowed the group to maintain the list of tenets, called the Basis of Faith, that prohibits those who engage in homosexual behavior from becoming a leader of the group.

Sax wrote in an email that TCF can continue to exist as a Tufts chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. As with all cases of de-recognition, however, the group will no longer retain the right to reserve room space on campus, use Tufts’ name or apply for TCU Treasury funding.

For now, the future structure of TCF is unclear, Nwafor said.

“Most likely, Bible studies will still continue,” Nwafor said. “But as for the structure and organization of the community, that is going to be something that we are figuring out amongst ourselves and trying to reevaluate how our structuring activities with our membership works now, in this new status of de-recognition.”

According to Nwafor, TCF took the full 60-day period allocated by the CSL to get a full understanding and consensus of the group members’ opinions. TCF leadership held meetings for members and even provided a survey of open-ended questions about the issue.

The Vision and Planning Team also contacted other religious groups on campus to understand how the CSL’s new policy would affect groups in different situations. Though the Vision and Planning Team ultimately made the decision not to reapply, Nwafor stressed the group’s consensus in choosing not to apply for recognition.

“We work as a fellowship and it’s very important for us to gather the opinions and thoughts of our fellowship when making a decision,” she said. “We really wanted to take into consideration their ideas, even their different theologies, in how we would apply this to our decision.”

Under future leadership, the group still may choose to reapply for recognition in the future, Nwafor added.

“Right now, we won’t be seeking re-recognition, but …[next year’s] Vision and Planning Team can always make the decision to go a different route than us,” Nwafor said.

Sax explained that besides having to gain approval by the University Chaplaincy and the Judiciary, the group would face several obstacles in attempting to regain recognition, especially if they reapply as a new group.

“The Judiciary is always skeptical of any group that existed one year, fell out of commission, then came back [as a] new group in the following year,” Sax said. Usually, he said, when a group reapplies it indicates only “contingent” student interest in the group that doesn’t indicate sustainability.

“That’s probably not true with TCF, so that will be something that the Judiciary will have to take into consideration, but not in such a strict sense,” Sax said.

Though TCF can no longer use the university’s name, Nwafor explained that the group still felt connected to the campus community.

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