The University of Iowa to Christian Student Groups: Limiting Leadership Positions to Committed Christians is Disallowed

Nov. 28 2018

According to the bylaws of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a Christian campus organization, people of all faiths are welcome to join and participate in its events, but those in positions of leadership must be committed Christians. The University of Iowa, a public institution, has ruled that the fellowship’s chapter on its campus be disbanded—along with similar Muslim, Sikh, and Mormon groups—because such requirements violate university “human-rights policy.” Howard Slugh comments:

InterVarsity attempted to compromise [by replacing] the requirement that its leaders be practicing Christians with language indicating that it “strongly encouraged” leaders to share its faith. The school responded that even that language would violate the human-rights policy. The ministry was not allowed to indicate that it had any preference for leaders or members who shared its faith. That is not a fine-tuned requirement aimed at rooting out hidden discrimination; it is a blunt instrument that the university is wielding to bring the ministry to heel. . . . The state is forcing the ministry to choose between the integrity of its faith and its ability to function efficiently.

Combating discrimination is noble, but the University of Iowa has taken its pursuit of that cause to an absurd degree. When a Christian group sued the university, claiming, in part, that other groups were allowed to violate the human-rights policy, the school responded by deregistering 38 groups that limit their membership or leaders to those who meet cultural or ideological qualifications. To judge from the list of deregistered groups, the school simply could not abide a Chinese dance society whose members were Chinese dancers, a German club made up of German students, or a Malaysian student society populated by Malaysians. The fact that this policy has descended into farce makes it no less dangerous to religious groups. . . .

Jews should stand in solidarity with Christians in reaffirming the foundational American principle that the government has no role in dictating who may serve as a religious leader. . . . If left unchecked, the action by the University of Iowa would establish a dangerous precedent. The constitutionally protected right of religious minorities to select their own leaders is a buffer that protects them from meddling by their neighbors and the government. Their neighbors cannot join a religious organization en masse and vote for leaders who do not share its religious purpose. . . . Jews and members of other minority religions have an interest in speaking out against the university’s policy.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at National Review

More about: Freedom of Religion, Religion & Holidays, University

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela