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Re: On the Treatment of the Tufts Christian Fellowship

[The following is an open letter to Seth Rattan, author of On the Treatment of the Tufts Christian Fellowship.]

[This letter was co-authored by Connor Blanck, who was a sophomore at Tufts University at the time of writing.]

Dear Mr. Rattan,

We would like to respond to the open letter that you wrote to President Monaco three days ago concerning the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), the decisions the administration has made regarding their recognition as an official Tufts Student Religious Group, and the response of the student community to those decisions.

We would like to begin by stating what this letter is not about. It is not about justifying or making any claims about the motivations or opinions of people other than ourselves. We are not going to argue that everyone shares our reasoning on this matter, only that our reasoning is held by some (ourselves at the least) and that it is valid.

We are not going to suggest that the TCF should not exist, only that it should not be funded or recognized as an official Tufts organization given its current discriminatory policies. We are completely in support of free speech, and the existence of the TCF, but not our own direct political and financial contribution to its policies and its message.

We are not going to suggest that the TCF should be forced to have leadership that it does not approve of, only that all be allowed to run for leadership positions. It is completely within the rights of the membership to decide their leadership by vote, and if this means that people who are thought to be unfit to lead are not elected, we are not opposed.

We believe that Tufts should not fund or recognize the TCF given its current policies. The reason for this is that we, the student body, are the ones whose tuition dollars back that funding, and it is our votes that put in place the student government whose duty it is to fund student organizations like the TCF. Thus, the funding and recognition of the TCF is tantamount to its support and approval by the student body. If we, the student body, do not approve of the TCF’s policies and do not wish to support it, the university should respect that opinion, and not try to override it.

To reiterate, we are not opposed to free speech. If the TCF or an organization with similar policies wishes to exist without the support of the Tufts student body, they have every legal and moral right to do that.

We believe that even a Tufts-funded and Tufts-recognized group has the right to decide its leadership. Where the TCF differs is that it is disallowing people from even running for leadership positions. Mr. Rattan, you claim that this is akin to the selectivity practiced based on gender (by groups such as the Beelzebubs), politics (by groups such as Tufts Democrats), and nationality (by groups such as SJP). However, we strongly disagree. In all of these cases (which are cases that you listed as evidence in your letter), membership or leadership is decided democratically, not by policy. The Beelzebubs have no policy disallowing women from auditioning. Tufts Democrats do not disallow republicans from running for leadership positions. SJP, of which one of us (Liebow-Feeser) is a member, does not even have an executive board, and all decisions are made by democratic process.

To exemplify the fact that there is a distinct lack of the discrimination or selectivity that you claim exists, we point to the Tufts Arab Student’s Association, which has had white students serve on its executive board, and to the Tufts Muslim Student’s Association, which has had non-Muslims serve on its executive board.

So, Mr. Rattan, when you claim that all dissenters of the Committee on Student Life’s decision “have an axe to grind when it comes to Evangelical Christianity,” and are “angry extremists” who “are locked into an epic, mortal, imagined, childish struggle to tear down all Evangelical articles of faith which will not bend to accommodate their own moralities,” we ask you to kindly exclude us from that group, and to realize that there is a legitimate argument to be made against the recognition and financial support of the TCF as a an official Tufts Student Religious Group.

Sincerely,

Joshua Liebow-Feeser ’15 and Connor Blanck ’15

This letter has been revised to reflect the following correction:

December 13, 2012. An earlier version of this letter incorrectly indicated that the TCU Senate was responsible for recognizing student groups; they are only responsible for allocating funds to recognized student groups.