Harvard Sanctions Christian Student Group for Adhering to Religious Principles

Student group says member found in same-sex relationship removed due to 'irreconcilable theological disagreement'

Harvard students walk through the campus
Harvard students walk through the campus / Getty Images
February 27, 2018

A Christian student group at Harvard University has faced severe sanctions over the last week in retaliation for its adherence to religious principles, according to the club's parent organization.

Harvard College Faith and Action has been placed on one-year probation due to the club's ouster of at least one board member found to be in a same-sex relationship, and due to the group's relationship to its parent organization, Christian Union, according to the university.

Harvard maintains that HCFA's behavior constituted actions "grossly inconsistent" with university anti-discrimination policies, including on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as violating the requirement for student groups to be independent.

HCFA student leadership has maintained that those dismissed from the club were rejected due to an "irreconcilable theological disagreement" surrounding extramarital sex in general. Members in leadership roles must remain celibate, "regardless of sexual orientation."

The student removed from the board anonymously told the Crimson that she had never engaged in "extramarital sex" with her girlfriend.

Before HCFA can re-apply for recognition next spring, it must sever ties with Christian Union and provide "updated materials" demonstrating compliance with Harvard's anti-discrimination policies.

HCFA will be barred from receiving university funding for the duration of the probationary period.

Additionally, the student Undergraduate Council passed a resolution censuring HCFA and reaffirming its support for LGBTQ students.

Christian Union is an evangelical development ministry with projects at the eight Ivy League schools, as well as Stanford and Dartmouth.

Chritian Union founder and CEO, Matthew Bennett, said HFCA was "autonomous" and that the group had "fully met all student handbook expectations."

Christian Union operates in a supporting role, offering resources to its clubs, he continued.

HCFA leaders have echoed that view, saying the students wholly guide policy and club activities.

A Harvard spokesperson did not respond to how HCFA's relationship to Christian Union differs from the ties other student clubs have with their umbrella groups.

"It looks like Harvard is discriminating against HCFA because of its Christian convictions, which is of concern to us," said Bennett.

HCFA remain in talks with administrators about the group's future.

Prior to the administrative action, HCFA had been facing criticism for hosting of an "ex-gay" speaker who advocates in favor of conversion therapy.

HCFA did not respond to multiple requests for comment.