Christian group allowed to return to Ohio campus
March 3, 2009
A Christian group that claimed it was banned from the campus of Wright State University in Ohio because of its religious standards has been reinstated.
Members of the Campus Bible Fellowship said they were informed late Monday that they would be allowed to resume holding meetings on the Dayton campus. The reinstatement came after repeated media requests to school officials.
"We're good for now, but come May, we'll be up against the same qualifications they refused us on this time," said Gary Holtz, 62, a Campus Bible Fellowship organizer. "I believe because of public pressure [school officials] changed their case."
Holtz said the college banned the fellowship from holding meetings on campus Jan. 30 because the group refused to adopt university-mandated nondiscrimination language. Adhering to the college demands would have prevented the fellowship from requiring that voting members adhere to religious and behavioral standards, he said.
University officials also objected to the group's requirement in its constitution that voting members be practicing Christians, Holtz said.
"They were saying that we could not preserve the nature our group being professing Christians," Holtz said. "It denied us the opportunity to meet on campus and to be able to have information tables as all the other groups can do."
A fellowship member, Joseph Hollaway, said Tuesday that he received an e-mail indicating that the group could meet on campus through the end of the year. He said the group did not submit a revised constitution to university officials.
Dr. Dan Abrahamowicz, the university's vice president for student affairs, confirmed that the group is not banned from campus, but it was not immediately clear what led to the fellowship's reinstatement.
"CBF is not banned and is, in fact, a recognized student organization," Abrahamowicz wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com. "I do acknowledge that there was a lack of clarity in university student organization policy which delayed recognition for a few days."
Dr. Rick Danals, director of student activities at Wright State, said the fellowship had been denied campus privileges because of incomplete registration forms.
"They weren't fully registered because they failed to submit the university nondiscrimination clause as part of their constitution," Danals told FOXNews.com Tuesday. "We do allow groups to organize based on their values and beliefs; however, we don't allow groups to discriminate people."
The fellowship, which has had more than 20 members in previous semesters, didn't include clauses concerning gender identity and military status in its equal opportunity policy statement that are "required by all student groups on campus," Danals said.
Despite the college's assurance that the group can meet on campus this Friday, Hollaway says he has his doubts.
"We were seeking to protect ourselves as a group and what we stand for," he said. "It's a constitutional matter of freedom."
Following their ban from campus, Campus Bible Fellowship representatives contacted Robert Shibley, vice president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, who informed Wright State University President David Hopkins of potential legal ramifications.
"They could be sued for violating the First Amendment rights of the Campus Bible Fellowship, and that's a lawsuit they would almost certainly lose," Shibley told FOXNews.com on Monday. "College campuses are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, and the affect of Wright State's decision would be to reduce the amount of diversity on campus."
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