As a campus, it’s easy for us to say we don’t believe in hateful speech or actions. Harder, however, is understanding how that position applies to a nuanced discussion about Knox’s Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) chapter. Many LGBTQ+ students on this campus believe that IVCF’s national policies are discriminatory towards the queer community. Their national policies imply or explicitly state that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is immoral, wrong or sinful. After Common Ground asked IVCF to condemn the policies of their national chapter and disaffiliate, the response was ambiguous. When it comes to hateful speech or policies, ambiguity is unacceptable.
If IVCF members believe that being queer is not immoral or wrong, the onus is on IVCF to make that as absolutely clear as possible. Instead of outright saying they disagree with employment discrimination against queer people, IVCF has danced around the issues. In fact, some members have said it’s okay to hold those beliefs as long as no actions are taken, stating that discrimination requires action. We do not believe that’s justifiable. Creating a space where beliefs such as those are welcomed and embraced at Knox is a form of discrimination. It should be clear to students that if they join IVCF, having those positions will not be welcomed.
Beliefs are at the center of all action; the campus saw the culmination of that during the graffiti wall incident. We understand that IVCF is not responsible for the graffiti directly. However, IVCF must take responsibility for allowing an environment where someone thought it was okay to do this under IVCF’s name. The actions of IVCF’s national chapter is a reflection of Knox’s chapter. By choosing not to disaffiliate or denounce your nationals, you are telling queer people that a value judgement was made in which their personhood was superseded by the benefits Knox’s IVCF chapter receives from being affiliated. That getting a larger budget, being able to go to conferences and receiving national guidance is more important to IVCF than allowing queer people to feel safe.
If IVCF believes it can be an ally to the queer community without disaffiliation, then actions need to be taken to prove that. We understand that IVCF was put in the hot seat. There are a slew of organizations on this campus with a history of racism and anti-LGBT policies, and none of them are asked to disaffiliate or speak out, but it’s time for members to accept the way the cards fell. IVCF members stating they “love everybody,” does not mean anything unless that respect is upheld through actions. Explicitly denounce IVCF’s policies as discriminatory. Send a letter to your national organization to tell them you disagree with their anti-LGBT policies. Don’t ask Common Ground to do it for you. Educate members with harmful viewpoints. Host events where queer people can feel safe and welcomed. Be more proactive.
Note: Co-News Editor Connor Wood, who has been serving as the main reporter on the IVCF and Common Ground debates, did not contribute to this editorial.