That was quick

[UPDATE] Here’s a bit more in-depth piece on it.

The civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of a UGA fraternity, reported today in the AJC and posted on here by Will, has been settled.

The fraternity in question, Beta Upsilon Chi (“Brothers Under Christ”), was removed from the roster of official student groups in November due to their requirement that members and officers “affirm [their] personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ” (as the mission statement is “To establish brotherhood and unity among college men based on the common bond of Jesus Christ,” that only makes sense), and that they require all members to be Christian.

This requirement violated the new policy enacted by the Board of Regents statewide, and the University locally, that student organizations include in their constitution, and adhere to, the statement that “Membership shall not be denied to any person because of age, race, sex, religion, handicap, sexual orientation, or national origin.” (emphasis added)

The lawsuit, filed by the Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Law & Religious Freedom, was filed on the grounds that UGA has not consistently applied its nondiscrimination policy, and cited the examples of the Baha’i Student Association, which requires that a person be of the Baha’i faith to be an officer.

Faced with legal action, the University corrected itself, in part blaming the ordeal on a misunderstanding on the part of an employee , Josh Podvin, who was already known throughtout the administration and student body to be less than competent.

However, the bigger victory scored here is that not only was BYX granted permission to immediately reform and begin once again to receive the benefits afforded to all official student organizations, but the University has agreed to reevaluate, and revise, its nondiscrimination policy.

From an official letter sent by the Legal Affairs office at UGA, to the Center for Law & Religious Freedom:

The Division of Student Affairs will process the paperwork to immediately register Beta Upsilon Chi as a student organization at the University of Georgia.
[…]
Your client will have all the rights and responsibilities of a registered student organization except that they will be exempt from the provisions of the University’s Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harrassment Policy relating to membership in the organization based upon religion.

Continuing:

The University will be reviewing its student organization policies in the near future and all of your concerns will be thoroughly considered.

Having a nondiscrimination policy makes sense in some cases, but in the instance of an organization based around some ideal, ideology, or religion — such as a Christian group, an all-male fraternity, an all-female sorority, or a conservative or liberal organization, for example — it is beyond illogical to demand that adherence to the ideal, ideology, or religion around which that group is based be required for membership or officership.

19 comments

  1. memberg says:

    1) What’s with the slander of Podvin? Are you sure he’s “known throughtout [sic] the administration and student body to be incompetent[?]” Somehow I doubt that to be the case.

    2) What’s with the implied slander of UGA? They don’t keep known incompetents on the payroll.

    3) Don’t you think you’re cheering a little too hard for this rather insignificant “victory?” Woo-hoo for the status quo.

  2. Full Disclosure: I am in the same office as Josh Podvin throughout the day.

    A little backstory: Last year, UGA and its Divsion of Campus Life decided to create an office solely dedicated to student organizations. Throughout the creation of that office and Podvin’s new position, a lot of headache occured. Long story short- All student orgs. were required to register online with a system that frankly wasn’t fit to handle nearly 600 orgs. registering. There were glitches. Podvin took unnecessary heat as he tried to enforce UGA’s policy before he and everyone else knew there were major improvements needed. So, he deserves a fair-shake in all this. He’s just the messenger.

    Now, besides that, I completely agree with Jeff on this.

  3. Well UGAchris,

    If you mean I receive a stipend for my position in student government, then yes. But I can’t see how that’s relevant at all.

    And if you’re in the business of full disclosures, it might behoove you put your full name on the site; just a thought.

  4. SkylerA says:

    The Power of Christian Conservatives!! hah…

    Wait until you see the power of a mad liberal…and believe me their are a lot at UGA 😉

  5. Clint Austin says:

    I’m not sure this lawsuit is settled yet. I think plaintiffs want a full policy change rather than just a single-case exemption, which is a must in this case.

    Earlier this month, UGA approved “transgender” restrooms. Now we have this situation. Maybe it’s time for a renewed focus on what the University is up to over there with state funding.

  6. Donkey Kong says:

    “3) Don’t you think you’re cheering a little too hard for this rather insignificant “victory?

  7. ColinATL says:

    This case is much simpler than everyone is making it. And I think Jeff Emanuel’s reporting was horribly biased by saying that the requirement of Christianity of members is OBVIOUS. Why is it obvious? If a gay organization required members to be gay, it would be just as in violation. But they don’t.

    No one does this EXCEPT for the Christian Fraternity, and therefore they are in violation of a nationally acceptable and normative policy. It’s simple as that.

    The requirement is a silly one, and they should dump it, but they won’t. Any atheist, Jew, or Muslim who wanted to join probably wouldn’t. And if they did, wouldn’t that be a GOOD thing for Christians? A chance to show the finest parts of their religion to someone who apparently wants to learn about it.

    Seriously, all this talk about religious discrimination is all completely brought upon these organizations by themselves.

  8. Loren says:

    No one does this EXCEPT for the Christian Fraternity,

    Don’t virtually ALL fraternities and sororities do that? The UGA policy lists “sex” immediately before “religion,” and the Greek system heavily favors groups that are all-male or all-female.

  9. SkylerA says:

    We are all so quick to criticize UGA, but its gotta be hard work to maintain 600+ student organizations with a budget that keeps getting cut every year by the very people that are so quick to criticize it (Republicans), so I give them credit.

    Oh, and the last time I checked CHRISTIANS aren’t getting hate crimed on campuses across the country, where as Gay people like MATTHEW SHEPARD ARE getting hate crimed.

    For some reason I don’t really feel sorry for ya’ll anymore. I think that its much more important to give organizations like Lambda office space to promote tolerance and non-discrimination, than to give Christian organizations offices to discriminate against GLBT people.

  10. Skyler,

    First off, the budget that UGA must use to maintain the 600+ student organizations comes directly from Student Activity Fees. That hefty fee we (students in general) pay each semester is how student organizations are maintained. If you think that budget is too tight, I suggest you petition the student body for an increase. That’s not the legislatures’ domain.

    And since you admit the last time you checked was in 1998, you may want to look at little harder at who is “getting hate crimed” these days.
    Campuses across the country today are brimming with student groups that promote just about any idea and every way of life. That’s not bad. However, very often those ideas conflict. I’d have a hard time as a member of Christian fraternity if I was forced to accept someone of atheistic beliefs, who has made it clear they’re in the business of mockery, into my group.

    Lastly, this fraternity was not asking for office space; they wanted to be able to book a room where they can meet. They wanted the benefits of being a student organization, which of the last two years at least, they have been and which does not include office space. Ask the other 560 student organizations about office space.

  11. memberg says:

    Bill,
    UGA, like many campuses, has IFC (frats), Panhellenic (soros), and National Panhellenic (both). IFC/Panhellenic are comprised of the “white” Greeks, but I believe at least a few houses are racially and/or ethnically integrated. NPHC is comprised of the traditionally Black Greek frats and soros. To my knowledge, they are 100% Black, or at least 99.5% (although I wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong).

    IFC/Pan and NPHC have separate rushes and have, I think, only nominal formal interactions.
    So, as a practical matter, you won’t ever see a White person as an officer in a Black frat/soro.

    So, that’s probably more than you wanted to know.

    As for DK: You should probably take a more practical look at UGA clubs. I bet a majority of them are clubs that no one outside of the founders would want to join, which serve no one outside of the membership, that only register as a club to get a stipend (probably enough for one pizza night). As far as the larger organizations, they almost all have their own buildings, let alone offices, to do their business. And the “precious few” organizations that get a permanent office on campus: it’s likely because they’re getting enough funding from other sources to warrant an office on campus.

    So, DK, take a step back before you start charging that UGA is a campus that is discriminatory against conservatives. Last I checked, UGA is as waspy as ever, with no signs of stopping. The status quo is fine for them.

  12. Jeff Emanuel says:

    ColinATL:

    “Why is it obvious? If a gay organization required members to be gay, it would be just as in violation. But they don’t.

    No one does this EXCEPT for the Christian Fraternity.”

    Read the post. The lawsuit mentions a specific religious group – one that is not Christian – which has the requirement that its officers be professed followers of that faith.

    Ditto for sex requirement for fraternities and sororities.

    There’s no doubt that I’m biased on this; I’ll tell you up front that, in this case, I fully support the Christian fraternity’s ability to freely associate, as well as their ability to require that perspective members adhere to the common interest around which the organization is structured.

    I would say the same thing were it a different group, and think that rules and suits to the contrary are as ridiculous as the man who sued Hooters because they wouldn’t hire him as a waiter.

  13. SkylerA says:

    The University is funded partially by the legislature, and partially by student tuition. We’re BOTH correct.

    Secondly, I never admitted anything about 1998 figures, Don’t know where you got that one?

    As to my comment on office space, I was replying to commenter Donkey Kongs comment…

    “All this while liberal groups even at UGA (i.e. LAMBDA Alliance) are given special privileges, including office space, that no other organization is provided. If this was insignificant and sparsely occurred, ADF and the Center for Law and Religious Freedom would go out of business. ”

    A simple glance a previous commenting would have prevented your misrepresentation of my statements.

  14. 1.)
    Student groups are solely funded by student activity fees. That’s why we pay them. Our tuition covers our academic needs. Student fees cover extra-curricular needs and services. We’re not both right.

    2.)
    Shephard was murdered in 1998.
    “Oh, and the last time I checked CHRISTIANS aren’t getting hate crimed on campuses across the country, where as Gay people like MATTHEW SHEPARD ARE getting hate crimed.”

    I thought for sure when you cite something apparently so important to you, that you’d at least be familiar with the basics surrounding the case. My point was that things have changed since 1998. (again, when Matthew Shephard was murdered, in case I need to connect the dots one more time)

    3.)
    Alright, then lets progress. Since “tolerance and non-discrimination” are the order of the day; Then by default you must mean complete tolerance or in the least, non-discriminatory tolerance. Right? I mean, that’s the only way for it to be equitable. And if that’s the case, there is a solid fallacy surrounding “tolerance.” To promote tolerance, you must be tolerant. But that means you must be tolerant of those who disagree with or do not tolerate what you believe. In a sense, “promoting tolerance” is hypocritical. Lets say I’m not too sweet on bananas. You say, I need to accept bananas as a part of my diet. I say, “you’re being intolerant of my dislike of bananas.” Now of course this is a ridiculous illustration and I would beg you to not draw or jump quickly to assumptions or conclusions by trying to swap bananas with other words or label me as a bigot; certainly that’s not my point.

    My point is simply and solely that: you can’t logically encourage people to accept every way of life when you don’t accept the way they live their life. No matter who you are.

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