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Controversial New Requirement for Campus Religious Ministries

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World magazine — At dusk on the first Sunday after Easter, a small procession led by 10 white-robed men filed slowly out of Vanderbilt University’s Benton Chapel, the school’s interfaith worship space. The leader held high a crucifix. Someone behind him rang bells. A heavy and bitter coil of incense smoke rolled over the rest of the column.

When the students, all members of Vanderbilt Catholic, walked past the library singing “The Chaplet of Divine Mercy,” onlookers stopped talking on their cellphones. Students sipping coffee at an outdoor cafe looked up from their laptops, and everyone stared.

“Have mercy on us, and on the whole world,” the singers intoned as they wound their way across campus. The chant rang out across grassy commons and reverberated through empty courtyards with a sense of urgency amid the students’ battle with school officials over new rules governing campus religious organizations.

Vanderbilt Catholic is one of 13 Christian groups refusing to comply with the school’s controversial new nondiscrimination policy, which requires that any student be allowed to serve in leadership, regardless of whether the student shares the group’s beliefs.

The Catholic group says Vanderbilt’s new requirement hinders its religious liberty. But two of the largest evangelical Protestant groups on campus—Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) and the Baptist Collegiate Ministry (BCM)—have decided to comply with the private school’s new policy, saying they don’t expect interference from administrators.

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