CORRECTION: This story was edited May 9 to correct an error in the first sentence. We regret the error.
The Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Vanderbilt University has reversed course and now says it will not comply with the school’s new non-discrimination policy.
The Baptist and Reflector reported May 7 that while the university has approved the Baptist ministry as a recognized student organization on campus, that BCM will decline that status. The Tennessee Baptist Convention owns the Baptist Collegiate Ministries building, which is located in the center of campus.
Earlier Vanderbilt BCM director Thom Thornton said he was assured that a new policy requiring that membership in any campus organization be open to all students would still allow the group to select leaders who are committed to the organization’s mission.
Randy Davis, however, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, wrote members of the convention’s executive board to say that signing on to the policy would require the BCM "if the occasion should ever arise, to open the leadership to those who were not Christian.”
“Perhaps we should have known this earlier, but we did not," Davis wrote, adding that both Thornton and TBC Collegiate Ministries coordinator Bill Choate are supportive of the decision.
According to The Tennessean, 27 religious groups have said they will comply with the non-discrimination policy next year, while 14 have refused.
Tennessee lawmakers passed legislation designed to pressure Vanderbilt to drop the policy, but Gov. Bill Haslam said he would veto the measure, not because he agrees with the policy but that he believes the state has no business meddling in affairs of a private university.
On May 7, 36 members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus in Washington urged Vanderbilt to exempt religious groups from its “all-comers” policy, saying that it discriminates against faith-based groups by requiring them to accept members who don’t share their core beliefs.