Wednesday, August 17, 2016

May I have persmission to talk about Jesus?

In my catching up on reading over the summer I came across this from June 30 in Touchstone.  Apparently a Christian student group at North Carolina State University (35,000 students) ran afoul of the rules which required “written permission of Student Involvement in advance” or risk sanctions from the school or perhaps even criminal prosecution. The new policy requires groups and individuals who seek to engage in “non-commercial solicitation” on University grounds to first obtain permission but does not provide specific schedules for the approval or denial of that permission.  In other words, by failing to act the university can effectively deny without saying no.

How did this dispute arise? Last year, a student member of GCL and a pastor were admonished by the Associate Director of University Student Centers, T. J. Willis, Ed.D., for asking people in the student union (where many such evangelistic encounters take place) if they “needed prayers.” At that time, Dr. Willis told the GCL member that they were prohibited from engaging in religious conversations with other students without a permit. As you can imagine, the students rightfully complained, and lawyers for the Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”), a nonprofit legal foundation that advocates for religious liberty, sent the infamous “lawyer letter” on behalf of GCL in which the ADF reminded University officials that the only permission slip required by the student is the First Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees free speech. But the recalcitrant University officials refused to revise their ill-advised permit policy. “We believe that the only permit a student needs to speak on college campuses is the First Amendment,” ADF attorney Tyson Langhofer told When the University refused to revise the permit policy, the ADF sued the University in April on behalf of GCL students. In response, the University called the lawsuit “frivolous and without merit.” Nevertheless, and despite its frivolity, earlier this month, Chief U.S. District Judge James C. Dever III, a George W. Bush appointee, issued a preliminary injunction blocking the University from imposing its permit policy on GCL students. In his decision, Judge Dever wrote that it is likely that the University’s permit policy “facially violates the First Amendment.” However, University officials have until this Friday to respond to ADF’s request for a permanent injunction. Following the issuance of Judge Dever’s decision, Fred Hartman, University spokesman, said in a prepared statement that the University would follow the order. Mr. Hartman’s statement further declared, “The [University] has never required students to get permits to engage and talk to other students – regardless of the subject matter.”
Okay.  So maybe this will just disappear and Christians and Christian groups will not have receive prior permission to talk about Jesus.  There is a good chance this will happen.  So, if that may or even may likely be the case, why point this out and why stir things up?  Good question.  The reality is that the university (not just North Carolina State) was once supposed to be a place where the free exchange of ideas was promoted and not just permitted.  There was once a time when Christian schools were castigated for even suggesting that their setting might restrict the discussion or the teaching of things contrary to their faith and confession.  There was and is a great deal of concern about Christians practicing any sort of censorship in the very place where a free exchange of ideas was to be fostered.  Now we have gone full circle.  Christians are indeed talking about things with which they disagree on the campuses of Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries but it seems the secular universities ARE practicing censorship or at least restraining the free exchange of ideas (when it comes to religion or religious views that differ from the politically correct positions in favor now).  That is exactly what Christians are concerned about and rightfully so.

As I have said before, I do not fear the power of the politically and cultural elite to restrict or impinge upon what happens in my parish on Sunday morning but I am greatly afraid for what Christians and pastors say outside the worship service.  Our voices are being proscribed or at least controlled within the public square, within public institutions, and within the larger conversation of what America is or should be.  This is exactly our concern for the Concordias in our church -- colleges and universities are especially sensitive to this threat because of the flow of government money or government guaranteed money (student loans).  What we fear now may be the smaller boundaries within which the freedom of religion is allowed to exist!


John Flanagan said...

I have been reading a book about the lives of Christians living under Communusm in China over the tumultuous times of the Cultural Revolutiin. Mao's devoted followers persecuted, imprisoned, and executed thousands of Christians and caused many to deny their faith. there are an estimated 75 million or more underground house church Christians who risk all, refuse to acknowledge the official registered churches, and faithfully practice their Faith in small villages throughout China. Sometimes church services are held in caves and in secret outdoor areas. The major cities are more controlled by the religious police of the government, and thus much of the growth is outside urban areas. In many respects, progressives and academics in our society are as intolerant and anti-Christian as any dedicated Communist bureaucrat. Yet, the American people have allowed and enabled them to become overseers in our land, and not a day goes by when they remove one more part of our free expression of religion, and thus far they continue their assaults against Christianity. Where does it stop? Will we be like the Chinese Christians at some point? I can only wonder what will be our condition here in 20 years.

Carl Vehse said...

"In many respects, progressives and academics in our society are as intolerant and anti-Christian as any dedicated Communist bureaucrat. Yet, the American people have allowed and enabled them to become overseers in our land, and not a day goes by when they remove one more part of our free expression of religion"

And particularly disgusting is that the Missouri Synod Lutherans have continued their misguided quietist nature, when, in fact, the U.S. Lutheran (and here I'm not referring to liberal Lufauxrans) should be demanding as part of their responsibility as members of the Kingdom of the Left, that these traitors (the proper name for progressives) be indicted, tried, convicted, sentenced, and then publicly hanged for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

Has a member of a LCMS congregation ever been excommunicated for unrepentantly maintaining a car bumpersticker promoting a Demonicrat politician? If not, one might has well allow an ordained LCMS member on the Board of Directors of Planned Murderhood... or the Lufauxran Immigration and Refugee Service.

Mabel said...

Perhaps there would not have been complaints about evangelizing on a public university campus had the proselytizers been more polite and less aggressive. I recall how at my college, I'd be studying in the student union and couple of people from a local evangelical church would park themselves down next to me and tell me that I must accept Jesus as my personal savior or else I would surely burn in hell. I would inform them that I liked my Lutheran church off campus but no, that was not enough, I must be properly "saved". They made it clear that the Lutheran church was inadequate and they would not go away. At age 18, I found this to be intimidating, I felt chased out of my favorite study spot.

After this, I was able to spot the "God Squad" types as they were known around campus and make myself scarce but they had plenty of other victims. They especially would target Jewish students to the point of harassment.

This is like how now my neighbors and I will send around emails and texts when there are Jehovah's Witnesses in the neighborhood.

Kirk Skeptic said...

@Mabel: if the proselytizers were well-mannered the libtards would complain about their breath. BTW instead of warning your neighbors about the JW's, shouldn't you inviting them in so that you could witness to them?

Mabel said...

I had a funny experience with Jehovah's Witness folks. Awhile back I was up on a ladder, painting my front porch ceiling. (The color was traditional "Haint blue" of course, as I live in the Southeast and we must keep the restless souls of the departed away, as well as wasps) I was busily working and then glanced down to see two immaculately dressed JW ladies. Once they saw they had my attention, they commenced preaching to me. Lord have mercy, I was treed up the ladder and could not escape. Finally they concluded I was a heathen with a paintbrush and departed. I had to come down the ladder and howl with laughter for awhile so I wouldn't fall off. --- Mabel