Purdue University: Refusal to Allow Christian Women’s Group to Require Christian Membership
Purdue University nearly evicted a Christian women's housing group on campus for refusing to abide by a "nondiscrimination" statement that required student groups not discriminate on the basis of a long list of characteristics, including religious belief, when selecting members. Any groups failing to abide by this policy could face the loss of rights and privileges on campus. As a Christian women's group, the Stewart Cooperative could not agree to ignore matters of faith when choosing its members. When the group asked Purdue administrators whether their organization could be excused from these requirements, the students were told that there could be no exceptions. After FIRE intervened on the students' behalf and sent a letter to Purdue University President Martin Jischke reminding him of the group's rights to freedom of expression and religion. President Jischke responded quickly and the Stewart Cooperative was guaranteed the right to base membership on religious affiliation.
- "Victory for Religious Freedom at Purdue," May 19, 2004: Purdue University has finally granted a Christian women’s housing group an exemption from a mandatory “nondiscrimination” policy that would have made voluntary religious association on Purdue’s campus impossible. The policy threatened the housing of the group as well as its very existence. On April 19, 2004, the women of the Stewart Cooperative housing group received a letter from Purdue’s Office of the Dean of Students granting them an exemption from the policy, which effectively would have barred this Christian group from being Christian.
- "Purdue Recognizes Campus Group's Religious Liberty," November 19, 2003: At Purdue University, a public university in Indiana, administrators told an association of Christian women, living together in a Cooperative Residence that the group owns, that they would either have to add a "non-discrimination" clause to their constitution or risk losing their status as a group with campus rights and, indeed, their very home. The clause would have required them not to consider sex or religious beliefs when choosing members, effectively prohibiting this Christian women's group from deciding to be exclusively Christian and female. FIRE wrote a letter on the group's behalf to Purdue's president, Martin Jischke, pointing out that the First Amendment's protections for voluntary association, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion forbid public institutions from forcing religious groups to abide by such policies. The letter reminded the university that "a Christian organization has a right to be Christian." To his credit, President Jischke responded quickly with assurances to FIRE that this and other religious groups would be exempted from this policy. FIRE wishes that all universities were so willing to promptly recognize their errors and do the right thing.
- "Letter from Purdue University President Martin C. Jischke to FIRE, November 10, 2003," November 10, 2003
- "FIRE Letter to Purdue University President Martin C. Jischke, November 4, 2003," November 4, 2003
- "Campus Left to Christians, Conservatives: Shut Up!,"
by Mark Tapscott, Townhall.com, December 24, 2005
- "Conformity on campus,"
by Marvin Olasky, World Magazine, December 18, 2004
- "The Good and The Bad (Plus Some Ugly),"
by Rachel Zabarkes Friedman, National Review, October 11, 2004
- "Organization fights University's policy,"
The Purdue Exponent, May 26, 2004
- "Survey: many college students fuzzy on first amendment rights,"
by Associated Press, Black Issues in Higher Education, January 1, 2004