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Separation of church and state


In a world of social media craze, we are becoming so unbelievably exposed to different sources of information that we often neglect to realize what we are taking in. Recently, informational or opinionated “viral” YouTube video links have been posted to Facebook walls and Twitter feeds. Most college students have seen the “Religion versus Jesus” video in the past month or two, and similar videos are spreading around our social media outlets like wildfire. I saw a link to another one of these videos — this time, though, I watched it. 

Vanderbilt University has done something unprecedented by any major higher educational institution: it has inhibited freedom of religion. An excerpt from the awareness website said that “recently, Vanderbilt University placed five longtime extracurricular religious groups on ‘provisional status’ — jeopardizing their continued role on campus — because these groups required their leaders to share the groups’ core religious beliefs. In so doing, the university abandoned its long tradition of religious tolerance, forcing the groups into adopting moral viewpoints contrary to thousands of years of Judeo-Christian teaching.”

Did I miss something? Vanderbilt was founded on Christian principles. The school was named after a man who was known for donating large amounts of money to churches. My journalistic nature took over, and I dug a little more. What the awareness website fails to mention is the reason the school’s “long tradition of religious tolerance” was abandoned: an openly homosexual student was kicked out of a Christian fraternity on campus. After a review by the university, it was determined that the rules needed to be altered. Now, students are making YouTube videos like the one that is viral on Facebook, and awareness websites are being created.

This isn’t just limited to a few students creating a YouTube video to spark social change, though. This is growing, and it is growing quickly. The story is starting to be discussed nationally. Fox News, CNN, CBS and any other news outlet you can name are talking about it. Students are outraged, but it doesn’t stop there. Professors at the university are even speaking out against the new policy. Carol Swain, political science and law professor at Vanderbilt, has been a leading oppositional voice to the new university policy. 

To put this in perspective for students at Ole Miss, this is like the Colonel Reb debate on a 10-times-larger scale. Colonel Reb wasn’t protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, but freedom of religion is. This isn’t about a university trying to be politically correct in handling the whole situation. This is about a university taking First Amendment rights away from students and faculty. 

Universities and other institutions of higher education cannot be allowed to inhibit any rights of its students. Vanderbilt needs to get it together, for the sake of its students’ satisfaction and its national reputation. No matter how you feel about this issue, you can be proud that it’s not our university in this situation. I’ll take a mascot debate over deprivation of American rights any day.


Adam Ganucheau is a sophomore journalism major from Hazlehurst. Follow him on Twitter @GanucheauAdam.