Vanderbilt policy under attack by advertisement - WSMV Channel 4

Vanderbilt policy under attack by advertisement

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The faith debate is heating up at Vanderbilt University, and now religious groups are taking their fight to area living rooms with a controversial television ad.

"Why is Vanderbilt University forcing student groups to abandon their beliefs?" the ad asks.

It was already a sensitive topic, but add this and it elevates the debate to a whole new level. A New Jersey group called Americans United for Freedom is launching the television campaign against Vanderbilt.

The spot protests the school's anti-discrimination policy, which requires all student organizations to allow all students a shot at leadership positions, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

"We want everyone to have an opportunity to be a member of a group and the opportunity to run for leadership positions," said Vanderbilt spokeswoman Beth Fortune.

"The problem is, if we're the Christian Legal Society, we need to be sure that we're teaching Christianity," said Justin Gunter, president of Vanderbilt's Christian Legal Society.

Americans United for Freedom is now asking Vanderbilt donors to stop donating until the university changes its policy.

"The goal is to help Vanderbilt," Gunter said. "The alumni are making these advertisements now, because they hope Vanderbilt will change its policies."

And that's not all. While some student groups have chosen to leave campus, 11 others are doing just the opposite.

The group of 11 organizations submitted applications for registered status, even though they know their applications violate the school's rule.

"I hope that by our stance, Vanderbilt will see that its policy is deeply concerning to religious individuals," Gunter said.

That may be the goal, but Vanderbilt officials say whether it's a student group or an attacking advertisement, the policy remains.

"We stand behind that," Fortune said.

University officials say they don't anticipate the advertisement having a negative impact on donations coming in.

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