Vandy Catholic to Leave Campus Over All Comers Rule

An organization for Catholic students at Vanderbilt says it will move off campus rather than comply with the university’s nondiscrimination policy.

The rule states that organizations must be open to all students and that all members must be eligible for leadership positions.

In a statement, Vandy Catholic says it’s a faith-based organization, and Catholic faith is an essential qualification for leadership in the group.

Other student groups are also considering whether to move off campus because of the newly enforced “all-comers” policy. Law professor Carol Swain is the Christian Legal Society’s faculty sponsor.

“Student organizations should have the right to elect leaders who share the goals of the organization. It’s about leadership.”

Vanderbilt officials have given student groups until mid-April to comply with the policy or leave campus.

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As part of Vandy Catholic’s statement to the press, the organization also notes that it has been welcomed to meet at a neighboring university – Belmont.

The full release:

Vanderbilt Catholic announced to its members on Sunday that they will not re-register as a student organization at Vanderbilt University for the Fall Semester 2012.

According to Fr. John Sims Baker, Chaplain of Vanderbilt Catholic, “The discriminatory non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt University has forced our hand.”

Student organizations must re-register in April and affirm that they will abide by the controversial non-discrimination policy, explained Fr. Baker. “The Administration is forcing religious groups to open leadership positions to all students, regardless of whether or not they practice the religion or even know anything about it,” he said.

“How could we sign such an agreement?” Fr. Baker asks. “Our purpose has always been to share the Gospel and proudly to proclaim our Catholic faith. What other reason could there be for a Catholic organization at Vanderbilt? How can we say it is not important that a Catholic lead a Catholic organization?”

Student members of Vanderbilt Catholic received a letter on Saturday, signed by five leaders of the Vanderbilt Catholic Student Board, stating:

After much reflection, discussion, and prayer, we have decided that Vanderbilt Catholic cannot in good conscience affirm that we comply with this policy. While organizational skills and leadership abilities are important qualifications for leaders of Vanderbilt Catholic, the primary qualification for leadership is Catholic faith and practice. We are a faith-based organization. A Catholic student organization led by someone who neither professes the Catholic faith nor strives to live it out would not be able to serve its members as an authentically Catholic organization. We cannot sign the affirmation form because to do so would be to lie to the university and to ourselves about who we are as an organization.

While this policy may change our status as a registered student organization, it will not change our mission. We will continue to serve the Vanderbilt community as a welcoming and faithful Catholic campus ministry, proposing Jesus Christ in all that we do.

Fr. Baker says that Vanderbilt Catholic will re-organize. “With Bishop Choby’s complete support, we will continue to serve the students of Vanderbilt as an independent ministry. We are going to open our doors wider in order to make a greater effort to reach out to
all Vanderbilt students and all college students in Nashville.

In a recent email to Fr. Baker, Belmont’s Vice President of Spiritual Development, Dr. Todd Lake, said: “Know that you always have a home here,”

“It has become quite clear to the Vanderbilt Catholic students that we either stand for something or fall for anything,” said Fr. Baker. “We choose to stand for Jesus Christ, and we expect that our leadership do the same.”

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