Published February 16, 2011
The University of California at Davis has backed away from a policy that defined religious discrimination as Christians oppressing non-Christians after more than two dozen Christian students filed a formal complaint.
The definition was listed in a document called, “The Principles of Community.” It defined “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” as “The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”
“This is radical political correctness run amok,” said David French, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.
The conservative advocacy group wrote a letter on behalf of more than 25 students who objected to the policy and wanted it revised.
He said it’s absurd to single out Christians as oppressors and non-Christians as the only oppressed people on campus.
Raheem Reed, an associate executive vice chancellor at UC-Davis, said he received the letter and removed the definition Wednesday afternoon.
“I certainly can see how a Christian student reading that definition might feel and that’s why it was immediately disabled and taken down,” Reed told Fox News Radio. “This is not how we define religious discrimination.”
However, one student said they complained to administrators last November about the policy and nothing was done. “Christians deserve the same protections against religious discrimination as any other students on a public university campus,” French told Fox News Radio. “The idea that a university would discriminate against Christians is a very old story, unfortunately, and one that we see played out every day.”
One student, who asked not to be identified, said university officials asked her to reaffirm “The Principles of Community” last semester. She refused to do so when she realized that Christians were not protected under the policy.
“To have a non-discrimination policy that excludes the Christian faith is a cause for action,” she said. “In higher academia, one would hope that a diversity of ideas and beliefs would be appreciated. But my experience has been that this has not always been the case. There is a real fear of academic bias against the Christian faith.”
Reed said he regrets that Christian students might feel intimidated. “We want everyone to feel safe, welcomed and supportive,” he said.
“Not only are we taking it down, but now we’re going to look at what kind of affirmative steps we can take to reassure those members of our campus community who may have felt somewhat threatened or intimidated by it.”
French said all of the students who complained are fearful of backlash if their identities became known. “This was amazing to actually enshrine in your non-discrimination statement – discrimination against Christians,” he said.
“This is a symbol of the seeming impunity in which universities violate the law to establish a radical, secular-left agenda.” Alan Brownstein, a law professor at UC-Davis, said the campus has a generally open and tolerant view of religion.
“It’s a university campus,” he said. “There is robust debate and people will disagree on just about everything.” Brownstein, who is a nationally known constitutional scholar, said any legal challenges to the policy would depend on whether or not it’s a binding document.
“Clearly, if you had an enforceable regulatory policy that said, ‘we will discipline Christians who oppress non-Christians, but we will not impose the same kind of disciplinary sanctions on non-Christians who engage in the same kind of harassing behavior against Christians,’ that would be unacceptable and subject to legal challenge.”
Reed said “The Principles of Community” is not a policy. “They are, in fact, aspirational principles we have – to try to make sure we are promoting diversity and trying to build a more inclusive campus community,” he said.
Regardless, Brownstein said it might have been more appropriate to use less-specific language in the policy. “It’s always preferable to be as general as you can when you describe these kinds of unacceptable behaviors,” he said.