Something’s Afoul at Bowdoin College: Religious Intolerance

By Richard Nelson

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March 11, 2014

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Boyce College professor Owen Strachan, and an alum of Bowdoin College in Maine, has a must read post on the shenanigans happening at his alma mater regarding religious liberty and religious intolerance. According to Strachan

In a move that has reminded many onlookers of heavy-handed institutional actions at Vanderbilt University and Tufts University, the school’s administration presented Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (BCF) volunteer leaders Rob and Sim Gregory with a “non-discrimination” statement. This statement required, among other things, that the Gregorys open BCF leadership up to students of any sexual orientation.

As reported in the Bowdoin Orient, Dean of Students Tim Foster explained that “If someone’s participating in an organization and they are LGBTIQA and they are not allowed to participate in that organization because of their sexual orientation or they cannot lead that organization because of their sexual orientation, then that’s discrimination.” Foster sharpened the point: “And that is a violation of Maine law and therefore also a violation of College law.”

Strachan goes on to cite an accurate diagnosis of what’s gone wrong:

BCF enjoys the freedom to select its leaders no less than any other campus organization. Per long-standing historical precedent, the Bowdoin College Democrats need not admit Republicans to leadership. The Bowdoin Queer Straight Alliance need not admit a person who believes homosexuality is immoral to leadership. The Middle Eastern Belly Dance Ensemble need not admit a non-belly dance enthusiast to leadership. If these points seem straightforward, it is because they are. Yet this logic is undergoing revision by the Bowdoin administration.

In depriving the Inter-Varsity group of its right to select leaders in keeping with its identity, Bowdoin is compromising the right of free speech on campus. Free speech, after all, is a dead letter without freedom of association, and freedom of association is a dead letter without the freedom to set standards for leadership. The fracas in Brunswick, Maine, should therefore be of interest to citizens from a wide range of backgrounds who share a common interest in basic personal liberty.

Bowdoin is acting not only against BCF, but its own core values.

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center