November 21, 2011

A proposal by Vanderbilt University to apply its nondiscrimination policy to the leadership of student religious organizations “will restrict freedom and diversity in student life by jeopardizing authentic religious expression,” Father John Sims Baker, the Catholic chaplain at Vanderbilt, wrote in a letter to the school’s chancellor.

Nashville Bishop David Choby also wrote Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos asking that the university “not apply Vanderbilt’s laudatory nondiscrimination policy in this unfortunate manner.”

Student members of the Vanderbilt Catholic Community launched a nine-day rosary novena to raise awareness of the issue, said Grace Burnworth, president of Vanderbilt Catholic.

“We’re here to offer up our concerns to the Blessed Mother and ask her to take them to Our Lord for us so she can word them perfectly for us,” Burnworth said.

The dispute began after a Vanderbilt student complained to university officials that he was dismissed from a Christian fraternity because of his sexual orientation.“