Will Christians Become Outcasts at Public Universities?
We are Christian women, mothers of college students and college-bound children, who have serious concerns about how the "gender fluidity" movement has taken root at public schools and universities.
Editor’s note: This piece is coauthored by Cathy Ruse, Senior Legal Fellow for the Family Research Council.
We are Christian women, mothers of college students and college-bound children, who have serious concerns about how the “gender fluidity” movement has taken root at public schools and universities.
The idea that gender is fluid and self-determined, as opposed to biologically determined, has been germinating for decades. But today it has grown into a multimillion-dollar political cause that threatens the privacy, safety, and religious freedom of all students, and especially women.
In a recent op-ed, one of us, Penny Nance, president and CEO of Concerned Women for America (CWA), gave a firsthand account of how students, beginning at orientation, are being indoctrinated into this anti-Christian ideology at Virginia Tech (VT), the hard science school of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The response was overwhelming. CWA received emails from many VT students, parents, employees, professors, alumni, and state elected officials upset about the indoctrination. Many complained of coercive “diversity training” and policies. Some students reported fear of reprisal, and some school employees fear job loss. Many feel bullied into silence and believe their First Amendment rights are being infringed. The school is opening itself up to a variety of lawsuits.
VT’s response has been to post its mantra regarding civility, saying students were not forced to share their pronouns. But coercion comes in many forms, and the pressure is palpable. It is sad to say, but if you express traditional Christian beliefs at VT, you will be left outside of the community. Of course, VT is far from alone in this new woke trajectory.
Recently, the Christian student organization Young Life was denied recognition at Duke University because of its adherence to Biblical principles on LGBTQ issues. This is the culture being promoted at VT and other Virginia schools right now. It would surprise no one to see them follow the same anti-Christian discriminatory policy in the not-too-distant future.
Here is the key. President Timothy Sands was elected in 2014 after Gov. Terry McAuliffe stacked the VT Board of Visitors with liberals. He is a San Francisco, California, native and a graduate of the University of California, Berkley. His administration has ushered in diversity training that forces students and employees to submit to indoctrinating videos on “woke” orthodoxy, including microaggressions and gender fluidity. The training includes a quiz that forces people to choose the politically correct answer in order to move on to the next session. This environment separates students into perpetually offended identity groups instead of fostering school unity.
This is the issue Timothy Sands and others do not understand: To ask Christians to affirm this notion of gender fluidity is in direct contradiction of our Biblical beliefs in an everlasting, unchanging God who created humans male and female with intrinsic value and in His own image (Gen. 1:27).
Forcing all kids (and adults) to announce their pronouns, and to use false pronouns for others, is forcing them to declare a creed they do not affirm. In fact, this belief is not completely new. It is rooted in Gnosticism and sexual nihilism.
Forcing Christians to abide by this new version of the old heresy is not only asking them to deny God’s purposeful creation but to deny God Himself. It is every bit a sacrilege as being forced to bend the knee to a foreign god. We cannot do it (“we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” [Daniel 3:18b]). When government officials compel religious people to deny their God, it is tantamount to forced conversion, compelled by the government.
In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of students to refuse to salute the American flag. Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, religion or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”
Yet this is what public schools and state universities are doing when they force students (explicitly or implicitly) to refer to another person as “they,” “ze,” “xe,” or whatever. This is government officials coercing people to say (and believe) words (or creeds) against their will and using our tax dollars to do it.
As former Justice Anthony Kennedy (the infamous moderate voice on the Court) wrote last year in his concurring opinion in NIFLA v. Becerra, “It is not forward thinking to force individuals to ‘be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] find unacceptable.’”
Labeling people bigots for not assenting to an anti-Christian view of the human person is not only offensive to religious freedom and free speech, it’s devastating for women.
In fact, the real-world result of removing all distinction between men and women is so pernicious that an unlikely alliance has developed between radical feminists at Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF) and conservatives. Women of all political persuasions are joined by the idea that women are unique and should be celebrated — that women’s safety, privacy, and opportunities are at risk by these wrongheaded, unscientific policies.
The denial of women’s safe spaces are already happening on other campuses, as this sign sent to us by a parent from another school’s orientation event illustrates:
Should we expect this at the next VT student orientation? Students of faith, and especially female students, need strong advocates who will bravely help them fight this battle. Parents need to speak up! It is too much to ask students to stand up to the monumental pressure today’s universities are putting on them. We must stand with them and fight for justice.
Public universities should be a place for all members of the public, not just those willing to affirm an anti-Christian, anti-woman creed.
“Government must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions,” said Justice Kennedy last year. “Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief.”
Indeed. The cost of attending an American public university must never be your conscience, your safety, or your soul.