Des Moines Register 12-05-06 Exclude no one from ISU student organizations By WARREN BLUMENFELD IOWA VIEW Today, certain student Christian religious groups are asking for exemption from Iowa State University's non-discrimination policy and for "reasonable accommodations" to exclude certain categories of people from membership in their organizations based on their "firmly held religious beliefs." In the past, a number of Christian denominations have excluded people based on "race." For example, it was not uncommon for religious representatives to offer scriptural justifications for the institution of slavery in the Americas. In fact, many slave ships had on board a Christian minister to help oversee the passage. Some of the slave ships were named the "Jesus," the "Grace of God," the "Angel," the "Liberty," and the "Justice." In addition, in May 1845, 310 delegates from the Southern states convened in Augusta, Ga., to separate from the Baptist General Convention and to organize the Southern Baptist Convention on a pro-slavery plank by claiming that God condoned slavery, and that to be a "good Christian" one must support the institution of slavery and the separation of the so-called "races." One hundred and fifty years later, in June 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention officially apologized to African-Americans for its support and collusion with the institution of slavery, and also apologized for its rejection of civil-rights initiatives of the 1950s and 1960s. I ask, then, will those groups that are attempting to circumvent ISU's nondiscrimination policy today apologize to those of us they are marginalizing and stigmatizing in, say, 10 years, 100 years, 150 years? How long will it take? These student groups are asking to exclude certain categories of people today lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and their supporters - but who is to say they will not attempt to exclude others tomorrow: people with disabilities, people from lower socioeconomic class backgrounds, people of non-European heritage, people of color and others. I also ask whether these groups are also asking for the right to exclude women from leadership positions? How far will this "reasonable accommodation" extend? Dignity, integrity, self-worth, respect, support: These are concepts that every human being (indeed, every living creature) is entitled to and deserves. I believe that when anyone or any group of any social identity is targeted for exclusion, this is everyone's issue. For in the final analysis, whenever anyone is diminished, we are all demeaned, and this includes members of those organizations that are attempting to exclude. Exclusion compromises the integrity of the excluder, and these actions run contrary to their own basic humanity. It is, therefore, in everyone's best interest to make Iowa State University the welcoming campus that it purports to be and indeed can be for us all. We can ensure that our campus becomes a safe and welcoming community for us all by working to end the misunderstanding that remains around issues of social identity and social oppression. One step in this process is for all officially recognized student organizations to adhere to our policy of non-discrimination on the basis of protected social identity categories. WARREN J. BLUMENFELD is assistant professor of Multicultural and International Curriculum Studies in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University.