Christian groups at California State University have been stripped of recognition because they refused to sign a policy which would require them to open their membership and leadership to all students, including non-Christians.
Groups that do not sign the new policy lose free access to meeting rooms, are barred from student fairs and cannot receive funding from student associations.
The move has been heavily criticised by members of a nationwide campus ministry and a legal expert.
Greg Jao, National Field Director of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, said that leaders of religious organisations cannot be expected to sign the policy because their beliefs form a central part of their identity.
He said: “It’s an irony for us that, in the name of inclusion, they’re eliminating religious groups because of their religious beliefs.
“My understanding of an inclusive, welcoming university is to accept people based on their own beliefs.”
Edward Whelan, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC, also raised concerns.
He said: “What we’re seeing more broadly is part of an assault of secular progressivism on the classical liberal understanding of American society.”
Previously such a policy would have been viewed as “absurd”, he commented, as it would involve telling student political bodies to appoint leaders from an opposite political stance.
In 2006, The University of Birmingham Christian Union in the UK was ejected from the Guild of Students for refusing to have non-Christians in leadership.
The Christian Union had its bank accounts frozen and was prevented from having free room hire in the university.
However, last year it was readmitted to the Guild of Students and is permitted to have a leadership team made up of students who are in sympathy and agreement with the Christian Union’s Basis of Faith.