Something smells rotten at Harvard. A student group, Harvard Christian Faith & Action, has for several weeks now been subject to vitriol and slandering on the prestigious university’s campus. The group invited an ex-gay speaker, a Christian who advocates for homosexual celibacy, to one of its campus meetings; that led to the predictable charges of “homophobia” and “hatred,” with students claiming that the speaker “threatened” LGBT students with her beliefs.
Shortly thereafter, the group was put on probation—a first for the university—because of an incident last semester when a bisexual group member who had entered into a same-sex relationship was asked to resign her leadership position. Faith & Action had allegedly run afoul of the university’s student handbook policies concerning nondiscrimination. Debate the efficacy and appropriateness of those policies all you want. But the really bizarre aspect of this whole affair was revealed earlier this week: in spite of its probation, Harvard Christian Faith & Action will apparently suffer no consequences whatsoever.
This is, to put it mildly, very weird. Going after a student group because of its own reasonable internal decisions is bad enough, but you can at least sort of understand it in the context of the school’s broader policy. Yet going after that group, publicly denigrating and embarrassing it, and then not following through is another level of bizarre. Why go to all that trouble?
Here is a modest suggestion: The administrators at Harvard likely know that it would look particularly odious for the university to shut out a Christian student group—cut off its funding, bar it from university facilities, recruit new members—simply because it followed Christian teaching. But they are also well-aware of the intricacies of campus political orthodoxy: Anyone who steps out of line has to be punished and corrected. Putting Harvard Christian Face & Action on a toothless “probation” satisfies both demands: It avoids the messy spectacle of driving a sincere and faithful group of students off campus, but it lets the university look committed to politically correct dogma. It’s a win-win, sort of. Except it stinks.
Harvard Christians deserve better than this. At the risk of tipping the scales in the wrong direction, Harvard should either put up or shut up: The university needs to either stand behind its own silly politics, or it needs to admit that Harvard Christian Faith & Action did nothing wrong. Anything less is cowardice, unbecoming of so prestigious an institution.
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