Though Yale’s newest fraternity Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX) has announced a policy of admitting only Christians, it will have to change its membership rules if it intends to comply with Yale’s anti-discrimination policies.
Victor Hicks ’15, the founder and president of Yale’s chapter of BYX, which is the largest Christian fraternity in the country, told the News last week that only Christian students are eligible for membership, though anyone is welcome to attend the fraternity’s social events. But exclusivity on the basis of religion is against Yale’s anti-discrimination policies, Associate Dean for Student Organizations and Physical Resources John Meeske told the News Monday, though he declined to comment further on how the Dean’s Office may deal with the fraternity going forward.
The website of the BYX national organization stipulates that “each of our members is a professing Christian and exhibits a willingness to serve in Christ’s Kingdom.” Chapters at other universities that have similar anti-discrimination policies have pressured their universities to change their regulations to allow the fraternity to remain Christian-only. In 2006 and 2007, Christian groups filed lawsuits at the district and circuit level on behalf of BYX against the University of Georgia and the University of Florida. Rather than go through with the lawsuit, the University of Georgia altered its policy to accommodate BYX’s membership requirements. The University of Florida followed after a circuit court ruled that the school must recognize BYX. The University of Missouri also withdrew its demands that BYX comply with its anti-discrimination policy after the Christian Legal Society sent a letter to the school’s administration citing legal precedents.
But recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have established that universities are within their rights to deny official recognition and funding to student organizations that discriminate on the basis of religion.
In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that a policy at the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law that prevented discriminatory organizations from registering with the school was constitutional.
“Essentially what that case says is that if a school has a discrimination policy that says that they don’t allow any discrimination by their student groups, that is a legitimate policy that the school can have,” said Ada Meloy, general counsel at the American Council on Education.
According to the Undergraduate Regulations, “undergraduate organizations are expected to adhere to the University’s equal opportunity policies.” Yale’s equal opportunity statement prohibits the University from discriminating on the basis of an individual’s sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.
Meeske said the only exception to the rule is that some organizations can be open to only one gender.
“The only exceptions would be things like a male-only or female-only singing group or sports group,” he said. “There are some exceptions that recognize that there are some activities that need to be a specific gender.”
Hicks, who could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, told the News last week that “being a brother of the [BYX] fraternity is being a Christian. It’s one of the requirements.”
Yale’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity, takes a different approach as it does not restrict membership to Jewish students and has “several” non-Jewish members, according to AEPi president Daniel Tay ’14.
“We look for people that embrace [the religious] side and can appreciate that side of the fraternity, but ultimately the goal is to find people who fit in with our culture in a holistic sense,” said Tay, adding that AEPi hosts both religious and secular events.
BYX is currently registered with the Yale Dean’s Office and has eight members — the minimum required to found a BYX chapter according to the national fraternity’s policies. Since fraternities and sororities at Yale are no longer allowed to hold rush in the fall, BYX will invite freshmen to rush the fraternity starting in the spring term.
Clarification: Sept. 27
An earlier version of this article did not quote Yale’s equal opportunity statement in its entirety.