We have often been asked by supporters of our ministry if Campus Crusade is allowed to operate freely on U.S. college campuses. We have always responded yes, because one of the great aspects of American universities is the emphasis on protecting the free exchange of all kinds of ideas.
Sadly, this reality may be forever changed for Christians. On April 20th, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez on the issue of whether public universities may deny a religious student organization’s official recognition on campus because the group requires its leaders to agree with its core religious viewpoints. In other words, a Christian group who is unwilling to accept non-Christians into the leadership of the group will be deemed “intolerant” and will no longer be allowed to operate on campus. In the specific case at hand, the Christian Legal Society (CLS) had its status as a recognized student organization revoked at UC Hastings College of Law for religious discrimination. This was because they required officers and voting members to affirm a Christian statement of faith. They sued in Federal district court and lost, and they appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. It has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.
Wayne Grudem, one of the most famous theologians of our time wrote a brief that was just filed with the Supreme Court on Feb. 4th stating that “the implications of this case go far beyond CLS. If this policy of Hastings College of Law to exclude CLS from recognition as a campus organization is upheld, it will allow every public college and university in the United States to exclude all evangelical Christian organizations (such as Campus Crusade for Christ, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the Navigators, the Reformed University Fellowship, Baptist Campus Ministries, and others), from recognition for a similar reason. This will effectively remove evangelical organizations from state college and university campuses throughout the United States. This would be seen by most evangelicals (15 to 30 percent of the U.S. population) as a deeply troubling result – a policy permitting access to many diverse viewpoints but censoring the evangelical Christian viewpoint.”
To expound on Grudem’s fears, this means that we will no longer be able to use campus facilities for our weekly meetings, to gather for social events, or to bring in speakers for large outreaches. We won’t be able to hold Bible studies in dorms or even advertise for Campus Crusade by putting up posters or having an informational table for new students. The ramifications of this decision will also reach further than the college campus. Many churches rent public schools for services on weekends and the ruling will apply to them as well.
Whatever decision is made, we will still continue to work diligently to share the incredible love of Christ with students whether or not we are allowed on campus. In some ways, we rejoice for these trials because it helps to remind us that we must trust fully in God rather than our own flesh or the democratic system in which we live. Mike Erre wrote that “perhaps the church has been lulled into complacency by years of the very things we point to as proofs of God’s blessing upon America: religious freedom and material abundance.” Perhaps this case will serve as a “wake up call” for the Church to reject lukewarm Christianity and to begin living lives fully devoted to Jesus.
In the last few days as we have been researching the general public’s opinion regarding the court case, it has become obvious that the vast majority view Christians as closed-minded, judgmental, and agree with the previous court’s decision. It would seem that Christians have become known for the “hot button” issues they oppose (i.e. evolution, homosexuality, etc.) rather than the characteristics of Christ that should radiate from those who follow Him (i.e. generosity, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, etc.) So honestly, this court case really comes as no surprise.
So the big question we’ve been asking ourselves is “what should our response to this be?” The expected response might be anger, but instead maybe we should start evaluating if the Church is really acting as “a light to this world” as Jesus said we should be. Instead of becoming bitter, what if we turned our energies towards bringing compassion to those in need and serving others sacrificially as Jesus did? Let’s pray fervently that God awakens the American Church as a whole and uses our response to rebuild burnt bridges.