Cal State vs. the Christians

Posted on 2016 April 3


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A California institution of higher learning banned a religious group from campus because it would not allow non-Christians to serve on its board. An acquaintance got into an online debate about it and asked for comments. I replied:

Christians slaughtered each other by the millions in Early Modern Europe, and many survivors escaped to the American colonies, where they hoped to practice their religions in peace. The Framers wrote the First Amendment to enshrine the principle that the U.S. government would never be used by any one religion to suppress all the others. They sandboxed the massive lethal power of Washington so that all — particularly Christians of different denominations — might worship without fear.

In the Cal State Stanislaus case, tossing a Christian group off campus because it wouldn’t give atheists or Muslims or Zoroastrians full board membership seems like an excess of democratic zeal, which is in itself essentially a left-wing philosophy about how private groups ought to be governed by the community at large — which, in turn, acts to suppress freedom of religious expression. (The Christian group caved and was re-instated.)

One partial solution is to provide equal campus resources to any religion and allow each to exercise free reign over its own governance. But soon every group — from Baptist to Catholic to Mormon to Lutheran Wisconsin Synod to Reconstructionist Jewish to Wahabi Muslim to atheist — would want its own facilities, causing an infinite regress of demands.

A broader answer is to get government out of the business of education altogether. Today we’re forced to pay taxes to support public colleges that largely promote left-wing values and suppress conservative ones. This doesn’t comport with freedom of inquiry or a broad approach to learning. Private colleges, on the other hand, compete with each other partly on religious preference, and applicants can decide for themselves which of the many options appeal to their sensibilities. 

We don’t want a politically powerful Christian sect to suppress all the rest, but we also don’t want the government to force private groups to conform to the philosophical demands of the majority around them. A free and open marketplace of ideas permits every ideology to compete without fear of suppression. And private citizens, not government bureaucrats, are best suited to pursue those ends.

(For a dark scenario of what might happen to Christians if America became a theocracy, see my short story “The Red Dot”)