On the One Year Anniversary of the “Justified Departure” Policy

Official CARE Statement on the one year anniversary of the Justified Departure Policy (12/5/13):

On December 5th of last year, in response to the appeal of a student religious group that codified discrimination in the election of its leaders, the Committee on Student Life (CSL) created the “Justified Departure” policy, which allows “religious exemptions” from Tufts’ nondiscrimination policy. We at the Coalition Against Religious Exclusion (CARE) have been organizing against the policy ever since, and a whole year later, we are just as committed to the cause of not letting institutionalized discrimination stand at Tufts.

The policy, which was announced in conjunction with an appeal of the recognition status of the Tufts Christian Fellowship, allows Student Religious Groups to seek a “justified departure” from Tufts’ nondiscrimination policy in order to select their leaders. This justification would come from doctrinal reasons that the group would present to the University Chaplaincy, who would then approve the exemption.

We at CARE do not believe that any kind of discrimination should be sanctioned by our University. We believe in an all-comers policy for all student religious groups. We do not believe that the University Chaplaincy has the authority, expertise, or right to decide whether or not discrimination is justified. We believe in student groups’ right to democratically choose their leaders on their own criteria, outside of institutionalized discriminatory policy. We do not believe that discrimination on the basis of identity can ever be “justified”, or that it has any place at Tufts.

Over the past year, we have lobbied through public forums, faculty committees, the President’s office, the TCU Senate, and the CSL itself. Through dual TCU Senate resolutions supporting our cause, widely signed petitions, and the election of four candidates in two elections to the CSL who explicitly opposed the policy, the student body has shown that it does not agree with the “Justified Departure” policy. And yet, the policy still stains Tufts history.

This policy effectively tells minority students that their identity is not worthy of protection. For queer students specifically, who may have already struggled or continue to struggle with their religious and sexual identities, this policy is extremely damaging and triggering. By institutionalizing discrimination, the “justified departure” policy sends a clear message to minority students that discrimination against them can be justified. This is unacceptable.

Some argue that the previous non-discrimination policy was in conflict with religious freedom. That is blatantly false. The nondiscrimination policy only applied to TCUJ recognized groups and being a TCUJ recognized group is a privilege, not a right. Religious groups may place whatever limitations on their leadership as they want if they are not recognized. But once they are given the privilege of recognition, they should be held to the same standard as every other group: they should not be allowed to discriminate. Groups that discriminate do not deserve the privileges of recognition: the right to use the Tufts name, access to certain Tufts facilities, and most importantly, access to funds from the student activity fee, which every student pays–students shouldn’t have to fund their own discrimination.

This semester, CARE has continued to lobby through the CSL and other means to repeal the justified departure policy. The CSL is set to vote on this policy sometime this year and we are hopeful that the CSL will listen to the student voice and reinstitute an all-comers policy, by which ALL students, regardless of identity, can serve as leaders and members of all TCUJ recognized groups. 

This policy, however, is just one chapter in a long history of Tufts allowing religious groups to discriminate.We therefore ask for you to show your support once again, and to renew this fight.  Share this message, change your profile picture, and most importantly, talk to your friends about why this policy is problematic. One year is too long for institutionalized discrimination to stay on the books at Tufts. Let us make sure that it doesn’t become two years.

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