Christian club loses support and funding from CSU system

The California State University (CSU) system derecognized a campus Christian club and its statewide chapters at the start of the semester on the grounds of religious discrimination, denying them access to university funding, campus meeting space and tabling at campus events.

The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship requires group leaders to identify as Christian and sign a statement of faith, which resulted in their exclusion from state resources at all 23 CSU campuses. Regular members do not have to sign the statement, according to SF State alumna and InterVarsity staff member Carrie Detrick.

CSU Director of Public Affairs Mike Uhlenkamp recommended that the club instead select leaders with skills tests or a requirement to attend a certain number of meetings.

“We’ve given them a year to address this issue with their bylaws,” Uhlenkamp said. “This (recognition by the CSU system) is a process that takes place every fall. Any time you discuss religion, people get fired up.”

According to the group’s website, the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was recognized and funded on state college campuses for most of its 76-year existence. As of the previous spring semester, they had 949 chapters on 616 campuses nationwide that continue to focus on Bible study, community service and social events.

“All we know is when we went to go for recognition, we were told we had to follow the executive order,” Detrick said. “It feels like we’re not recognized as part of the campus community.”

Then-chancellor Charles B. Reed issued an executive order in 2011 to prevent state-funded groups from using religious criteria as membership or leadership selection.

Other religious clubs at SF State have policies that open their doors to members and leaders of other religions does not affect their core values.

“We only have leaders that demonstrate commitment and passion,” said Rachel Nilson, an advisor to the Jewish club Hillel. “We don’t have requirements other than being a student.”

Hillel has many members in leadership positions who do not identify as Jewish, according to Nilson. It does not affect their success as a Jewish cultural club.

Russell Jeung, the advisor to several other Christian clubs at SF State, including the Asian American Christian Fellowship, LIGHT on Campus and Young Life College, said that while the InterVarsity decision worried some of the clubs’ members, they follow the open membership policy required by the state.

“They go by selection process and are picked by vote,” Jeung said of the clubs he advises. “It’s based on who members think would best serve the organization.”

Without official recognition and University funding, InterVarsity’s regular meetings now require a search for empty classrooms, according to club member Cassie Hodges. Since they are no longer allowed to table at campus events, members now attach banners to their backpacks to attract new recruits.

“We decided to go on with it,” Hodges said. “We could have just given up and said it’s too difficult. It’s hard not having the support from school.”

 

Latest comments
  • Dear Chloe Johnson,

    I would like to share some of my thoughts on this article and topic; here they are:

    I think it is horrible that IVCF (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship) is being demeaned as an organization and wrongfully accused of committing acts of religious discrimination in the selection process of its leaders; furthermore, that our school paper is publicizing it as such. I think Mike Uhlemkamp is discriminating against IVCF as a religious organization in requesting that we do not follow the guidelines given to us in how we appoint Godly leaders in *1 Timothy 3, specifically verses 6 and 9.

    Uhlemkamp is telling us to disregard the instruction given to us by God through the apostle Paul in how leaders are appointed within our organization. Perhaps Uhlemkamp would like to rewrite 1 Timothy 3. I think he should be given a year to consider how he is contributing to committing an act of religious discrimination himself against IVCF. This ruling is prohibiting students from forming a state recognized club on the basis of religious discrimination, which is actually discriminating against us for our religious beliefs.

    *Below I included the scriptural passages I referenced, if you are curious as to what I was referring to:

    1 Timothy 3 New International Version (NIV)

    Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons

    3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

    8 In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

    11 In the same way, the women[c] are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.

    12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well. 13 Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.

    Reasons for Paul’s Instructions

    14 Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, 15 if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. 16 Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:

    He appeared in the flesh,
    was vindicated by the Spirit,[d]
    was seen by angels,
    was preached among the nations,
    was believed on in the world,
    was taken up in glory.

    Footnotes:

    1 Timothy 3:4 Or him with proper

    1 Timothy 3:8 The word deacons refers here to Christians designated to serve with the overseers/elders of the church in a variety of ways; similarly in verse 12; and in Romans 16:1 and Phil. 1:1.

    1 Timothy 3:11 Possibly deacons’ wives or women who are deacons

    1 Timothy 3:16 Or vindicated in spirit

    Cross references:

    1 Timothy 3:1 : S 1Ti 1:15

    1 Timothy 3:1 : Ac 20:28; Php 1:1; Tit 1:7

    1 Timothy 3:2 : Tit 1:6-8

    1 Timothy 3:2 : ver 12

    1 Timothy 3:2 : ver 11; Tit 2:2

    1 Timothy 3:2 : S Ro 12:13

    1 Timothy 3:2 : 2Ti 2:24

    1 Timothy 3:3 : Tit 1:7

    1 Timothy 3:3 : 2Ti 2:24

    1 Timothy 3:3 : Lk 16:14; 1Ti 6:10; 2Ti 3:2; Heb 13:5; 1Pe 5:2

    1 Timothy 3:4 : ver 12; Tit 1:6

    1 Timothy 3:5 : S 1Co 10:32

    1 Timothy 3:6 : 1Ti 6:4; 2Ti 3:4

    1 Timothy 3:6 : S 2Pe 2:4

    1 Timothy 3:7 : S Mk 4:11

    1 Timothy 3:7 : 2Ti 2:26

    1 Timothy 3:8 : Php 1:1

    1 Timothy 3:8 : 1Ti 5:23; Tit 1:7; 2:3

    1 Timothy 3:9 : S Ac 23:1

    1 Timothy 3:10 : 1Ti 5:22

    1 Timothy 3:11 : 2Ti 3:3; Tit 2:3

    1 Timothy 3:11 : ver 2

    1 Timothy 3:12 : ver 2

    1 Timothy 3:12 : ver 4

    1 Timothy 3:15 : ver 5; S 1Co 10:32

    1 Timothy 3:15 : S Mt 16:16

    1 Timothy 3:16 : S Ro 16:25

    1 Timothy 3:16 : S 1Ti 2:2

    1 Timothy 3:16 : S Jn 1:14

    1 Timothy 3:16 : Ps 9:11; Col 1:23

    1 Timothy 3:16 : S Mk 16:19

    New International Version (NIV)

    Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Thank you for your time,

    Luke Novella
    Current Student at SFSU and member of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

    • A CSU-wide organization was launched to unite advocacy efforts on removing or revising this “open membership” policy.

      Check out http://www.CSUSOFA.org to learn more about this issue or to join the coalition.