08/28/04 — Religious organizations should be treated equally

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Religious organizations should be treated equally

The right to choose one’s associates and the freedom of religion certainly are worth defending. A lawsuit that has been filed to assert those rights at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, however, is unwise, a waste of time and resources, and a failure of faith.

The suit was filed by a Christian fraternity named Alpha Iota Omega, whose purpose is to evangelize among members of other fraternities and sororities.

The university has withdrawn its official recognition of the organization because it refuses to allow non-Christians to join. Religious groups will be given official recognition at UNC if they will open their membership to anyone, including people who don’t share the beliefs of the organization. Even if these non-believers are barred from leadership positions in the groups, official recognition is granted.

Alpha Iota Omega could keep its official recognition, too, if it would agree to those terms.

It won’t. The president of the UNC-CH chapter, senior Trevor Hamm from Kinston, said the group does not want members who cannot evangelize, which rules out everyone except committed Christians.

That is the appropriate stand for Hamm to take on membership.

But the university is right to deny Alpha Iota Omega official recognition, because all religious organizations should be treated alike. Hamm undoubtedly would agree that it would be wrong for the university to grant official recognition to an all-Muslim organization.

Little is at stake in this lawsuit. The denial of official recognition does not mean the fraternity cannot exist on campus. It merely means that the school will not give it money from student fees, and it cannot get preferential treatment in booking school facilities as meeting places. The latter shouldn’t be much of a problem since, unfortunately, the chapter has just three members.

Their missionary work is commendable, but they needn’t be concerned with the university’s administration. Their labors are not dependent on the school. As David wrote in Psalm 56: “...In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

The fraternity should withdraw the suit and devote itself instead to its purpose.

Published in Editorials on August 28, 2004 10:02 PM