In the academic world, “civility statements,” or statements of values, are often the politically correct version of kumbaya, a secular shout-out to kindness, niceness, and all-around tolerance. Designed as statements of diversity orthodoxy, they are utterly vacuous and often harmless. Written over the course of years in endless committee meetings, they’re dense, overwrought—and utterly ignored.
But sometimes, they have teeth. Just ask Christian students at University of California, Davis. This year, the university asked students to reaffirm their commitment to the university’s Principles of Community, which condemn—along with other university policies—religious discrimination. So far, so good. But then how does the university define religious discrimination? Like this:
Religious/Spiritual Discrimination: 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.
Yes, you read that correctly. According to UC-Davis, its nondiscrimination policy does not protect Christians. In fact, it singles them out for exclusion.
This is absurd on a number of levels. First, it’s blatantly unconstitutional for a university to favor one religion over another (or—more precisely—every other religion over Christianity). According to this policy, an atheist professor could toss a Christian out of class merely because that student professes faith in Christ, and the student would have no claim under the university’s nondiscrimination policy. According to this policy, Christian student groups could be systematically excluded from campus facilities with no recourse.
Second, the policy flies in the face of campus reality. Survey after survey shows that Christians face unique challenges on campus. Most of their professors dislike them, Christian professors are among the least likely to be hired and promoted, and their rates of church attendance plummet while in college. The Alliance Defense Fund’s own case files show example after example of Christians expelled, threatened, excluded, and censored for their faith.
Which brings us to the ultimate irony of the policy. If Christianity is so dominant, why was it powerless to secure protection for its adherents on campus? In fact, this is the irony that lurks behind the vast majority of campus censorship, from speech codes to “report the hate” anti-bias policies to thought-reform programs. Enacted allegedly on behalf of the powerless against the powerful, they represent nothing more and nothing less than raw exertions of state authority. If the Left is so marginalized, how is it able to commandeer entire state universities and force students to comply with its mandates?
Fortunately, 25 students decided to dissent. On Feb. 16, they sent a letter to the university (through an Alliance Defense Fund-allied attorney) demanding that UC-Davis comply with its most basic constitutional obligations. Their protest is anonymous for now. After all, UC-Davis explicitly allows invidious discrimination against them and may even view the very act of their asserting their rights as the action of the so-called “dominant culture.”
The secular Left’s agenda should be clear by now. It is ruthlessly opposed not to religion in general, but to one particular religion—Christianity. And in those communities where it has gained real power, religious liberty is the first casualty.
Fortunately, however, the UC-Davis administration does not have the last word on the Constitution, and if it does not voluntarily change its policy, it may very well find itself defending its discrimination in court.
EDITOR’S NOTE: UC-Davis has announced that it is abandoning its “religious/spiritual discrimination” definition as a result of the letter it received from an ADF-allied attorney. Read more here.