Texas A&M: Christian club may remain Christian

Letter from ADF attorneys results in recognition of student club
Friday, August 28, 2009

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — After receiving a letter from the Alliance Defense Fund Center for Academic Freedom written on behalf of a Christian student club, Texas A&M officials agreed Thursday to continue recognizing the group as an official university student organization without forcing it to abandon its core beliefs and purpose. The university agreed with ADF attorneys that forcing Freshman Leaders in Christ (FLiC) to open its membership to non-Christians--or lose its recognized status on campus--would violate the group’s constitutional rights.

“More universities should follow Texas A&M’s lead and acknowledge that Christian students shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their beliefs,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joseph Martins. “Texas A&M worked closely with ADF to evaluate the university’s policies and come to the correct conclusion that FLiC has a constitutional right to maintain a membership of Christian freshmen in keeping with the group’s purpose.”

In May, Texas A&M’s Department of Student Activities notified FLiC’s co-director, Lauren Shook, that her club met all requirements to be recognized as an official student club except for its provision limiting membership to “all freshmen at Texas A&M who declare themselves as Christian, are following Christ in their Christian walks, and whose desire is to serve others as a way of following Christ’s example of leadership.” The department originally concluded that the club could not define its membership in this manner unless acceptable under “applicable federal law.”

Shook explained to the department in an e-mail that being forced to accept non-Christians into the club would fundamentally alter its mission and purpose. The department maintained its position, responding that FLiC’s membership criteria conflicted with federal law.

In July, ADF attorneys explained to Texas A&M officials in a letter that “‘applicable federal law’ not only permits, but requires the university to exempt FLiC from its compelled, open membership requirement. Otherwise, by forcing FLiC to accept members who would impair the group’s religious message and mission, the university would run afoul of the group’s rights to free speech, free association, and free exercise of religion.”

Soon after receiving the letter, Texas A&M said, and confirmed in a letter of its own, that it will officially recognize FLiC, allowing it to choose its members in accordance with the group’s beliefs and purpose.

“The university’s decision is in keeping with the Constitution and Supreme Court precedent,” said Martins. “Texas A&M should be commended for working proactively to protect the First Amendment rights of FLiC and all other student organizations on campus.”
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.