Qualification or Discrimination

“…with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” – Matthew 7:1-2


I keep thinking I’ve seen everything; I keep being wrong.

The California State University system has now effectively banned a religious group from its campuses because that group insists on being run by people who are honestly members of that group.


Wait, what?


It’s true. Multiple sources, including my alma mater Fuller Seminary, are now reporting that CSU is no longer allowing public access and/or usage of its facilities to Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, a group I will freely admit to being a part of, an in fact holding several leadership positions within, more than a dozen years ago. So please do understand that some of this, as much as I hope against it, may be tinged with a little bias. But facts are facts. 

One of the facts is the main reason for this…shall we say “ceased contract extension” with IVCF: a lack of signing a “non-discrimination policy.” If one were to take such a reason at face value, failing to comply with it would look pretty bad for IVCF; one of the main tenets of Christianity is agreement with Paul’s proclamation that there is nothing but social equality as regards access to, and life with, God (Gal 3:26-28). God is no discriminator, as Peter states directly himself (Acts 10:34), and therefore his loving followers being such is purely antithetical, a denial and not an embodiment of the nature of God. 

However, closer dissection of this “non-discrimination” policy seems to render the term illogical, and functionally meaningless. CSU’s definition, apparently, of “non-discrimination” is that anyone at all should be allowed to lead any group of their choice, regardless of characteristic or qualification. The essence of this policy is rooted in unchangeable characteristics, such as race – an essence obviously founded as a point of mutual understanding with Christianity. The enactment of this policy, however, is now exercised through changeable characteristics, and seems to undermine the point of such a group in the first place.

Who would expect someone without an advanced degree in biology to oversee genetic testing? Who would expect someone without knowledge of the American justice system to oversee a trial? Who would cross a bridge designed by first-year, pre-engineering students? Who would trust the grade earned in a class, or even attend a class, where the instructor didn’t know the first thing about what he was teaching? Who would trust a loving dog to someone who doesn’t know chocolate is bad for a canine, and hasn’t yet learned therefore to keep them apart? Who would expect to receive a five-course meal from someone who hasn’t yet managed to successfully prepare boxed mac-n-cheese? 

And yet CSU expects an organization to survive, thrive, and feel welcomed for its full, special uniqueness with people leading it that have absolutely no knowledge or qualification to do so. The alternative is that perhaps it doesn’t, and such a possibility is even more serious, because it would mean the CSU system is guilty of being biased against the success of a facet of the very diversity it purports to be encouraging by insisting on the policy; in other words, to claim equality in diversity would be a contradiction, leaving their policy meaningless at-best and untrustworthy at-worst. Idealistic diversity is being used to make genuine diversity impossible. 

This is disheartening to say the least, not because Christianity will suffer – in fact, it seems more likely to boom around the campus now, just in areas not covered by this new mandate. Nope; this is disheartening because of what it means for other groups of people expecting protection or recognition, for expectations of meaningfully qualified leadership in other areas of campus life, and for organizations that could flourish and contribute with the proper care but will now probably fail to gain steam due to a serious vulnerability in practical structure, including those grounded in academics. 

The university zeitgeist is nothing if not academic, so without fidelity to that academic rigor in its policies, it shall eventually seem to be nothing. And if an entire university system cannot understand the simple logical necessity that qualification is not discrimination, it remains to be seen how it can remain qualified itself as a trustworthy embodiment of academic integrity, empowerment and spirit.