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.
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 FoxNews.com. 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.”
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!