Des Moines Register 12-05-06 Exclude no one from ISU student organizations

Des Moines Register
Exclude no one from ISU student organizations
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.