Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Backing Away from the Brink: Marquette Will Not Suspend the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship

[Originally posted 8/5/11, 10:14 a.m. Updated and moved to the top.]

It was an obvious outrage: two administrators in Marquette’s Office of Student Affairs (Ian Jamieson and Erin Lazzar) ruled that the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship would be suspended on the campus for a year because they dismissed an officer of the organization who “came out” as homosexual, said he was involved in a homosexual affair which he would continue, and rejected Christian teaching about homosexuality.

The decision was appealed to Dean of Students Stephanie Quade who just this morning (Friday, August 5) reversed the ruling and lifted the suspension.

The group will be on probation for a year for violating a narrow clause of their constitution specifying the procedures for dismissing an officer. The organization will also have to submit to a review of their constitution. It is unclear, at the moment, what changes (if any) might be required in that document.

It appears, however, that Marquette has conceded the right of a campus Christian organization to hold officers to Christian standards of sexual conduct.

The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship mobilized a campaign among alumni to write Marquette in support of the organization. Quade acknowledged receiving a large number of e-mails, but maintained that they had no role in her decision to reverse the suspension.

Still an Outrage

In spite of this about face on the part of Student Affairs, it is still an outrage that a Christian student organization should be threatened with suspension for merely insisting that officers in the organization must maintain Christian standards of conduct.

Not only did two Student Affairs bureaucrats rule against the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, a staffer with the Campus Ministry (Steve Blaha) according to a source close to the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship encouraged the gay student to make the complaint.

Neither Ian Jamieson nor Erin Lazzar nor Steve Blaha would comment on the situation. Jamieson e-mailed the Marquette Warrior stating that:
I have no comment to provide. I understand you’ve been in contact with Dr. Stephanie Quade who would be the best person to address specific questions about conduct cases or hearing processes.
Quade provided only a terse and evasive statement, as follows:
As you know, there was a student conduct case involving IVCF and an initial finding that was amended upon appeal. The group was found responsible for violating published policies and action was taken.

This action dealt with adherence to university policies and procedures governing student organizations, in this case the need to follow the procedures set forth in the organization’s constitution.
This, of course, entirely evades the fact that the result of the first adjudication was that the organization was guilty of discrimination on the basis of “sexual orientation” and given a stiff punishment (a years suspension).

We responded to Quade asking her to confirm that the initial decision (by Erin Lazzar and Ian Jamieson) involved a charge of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She has not responded.

Erin Lazzar failed to respond to a voice mail request for an interview, and Blaha declined to comment on the grounds of student confidentiality.

Marquette did issue an official statement on the issue. Kate Venne provided us with a copy:
Marquette University has placed the campus chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship on probation for one year. The probation results from a finding that the chapter violated its own policies and procedures in dealing with a complaint.

This failure and the lack of clear communication regarding why action was taken caused significant personal hurt and resulted in allegations of discrimination.

No student conduct decision is final until the time in which to file an appeal has passed or an appeal is filed and decided. All students and student organizations have a right to appeal in accordance with the procedures outlined in the Student Conduct Code.

Marquette expects all student organizations to adhere to the university’s Statement on Human Dignity which “recognizes and cherishes the dignity of each individual regardless of age, culture, faith, ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or social class.” We want all students to be successful both academically and personally, and we are working with various groups on campus to ensure an inclusive and supportive institutional environment of all students, faculty and staff.
This evasive and disingenuous statement stresses the one procedural infraction of which the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship was guilty (lack of due process in bouncing the sexually active gay officer) and entirely evades the fact that the original finding was discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But the blather about “allegations of discrimination” and “inclusive environment” is an implicit admission that this is exactly what happened.


Marquette, in other words, acted like the politically correct institution it has become, siding with a sexually-active gay student who somehow thought he had a right to be an officer in the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and in effect revoking the right of Christian student organizations to insist on Christian standards of conduct from their officers.

Pressure, including a letter writing campaign among the Intervarsity’s alumni and the outing of the action by radio host Mark Belling caused the university to back off. Now, of course, they won’t honestly admit a blunder.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's an obvious conflict of interest that Steve Blaha has over in Campus Ministry. It is an outrage that he encouraged this persecution.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Badger Catholic said...

But is the admin feeling the heat from orthodox Christians? I at least would have expected the suspension to have slid through.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Outraged IV Alum said...

Steve Blaha needs to be removed from his position.

Every single outreach effort by MUIVCF (eg: holding bible studies in a sorority) is labeled "proselytization" and met with the utmost opposition, unnecassary conflict and even behavioral shows of hostility from Steve.

From a Christian and Catholic viewpoint, Steve is clearly unable to perform his job (as a Campus Ministry employee in charge of pastoral care) maturely and competently.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous thekahoona said...

It is truly sad that "pressure" from outside a Catholic university was required to ensure a that a Christian standard could be maintained by an on-campus organization.

What happened to the days when Catholic universities stood up for Christian values?

Marquette is losing bone mass in its spinal region at an alarming rate.

9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, the initial ruling decided by the two student affairs bureaucrats did charge ivcf with discrimination but dropped the harassment charge.

3:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog; it is truly a shame that a catholic university cannot see a problem with a homosexual leader. Shouldn't a Catholic university at least stand up for the teachings of the church. Since when did the Catholic church not view homosexuality as something to avoid?

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is very disappointing. While Marquette is clearly a Jesuit, Catholic institution, the feeling of the moment should be acceptance & understanding, not criticism & harassment. It is only through compassion for the situations of others, whatever they may be, that any of us can truly live in grace.

2:18 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

feeling of the moment should be acceptance & understanding, not criticism & harassment.

Do you mean acceptance and understanding of the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship?

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The conflict between non-discrimination policy and the freedom to practice religion is an ongoing one across the country; this will surely not be the last time that these two assumed rights butt heads.

However, the presumption that an actively-gay Christian leader is not living up to Christian values is absurd. Beyond the fallibility of all Christians (we all fall short; hence Jesus coming into the picture), there is also 1 Timothy 2:12: "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent."

Should we ban women from leading Christian groups as well, in the pursuit of "upholding Christian values"?

12:51 PM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Should we ban women from leading Christian groups as well, in the pursuit of "upholding Christian values"?

You are missing the point. A Christian group gets to define for itself what Christian teaching requires. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant.

Your argument is that if you find something in scripture that you disagree with, you can blow off the entire thing.

Well you can if you want, but you should not try to force other people to.

BTW, at a Catholic university, having a group that only has male leaders would be something the university should accept.

But the IVCF hasn't chosen to have that policy.

9:07 PM  

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