Vanderbilt University's totalitarianism: your tax dollars at work...

(TB: This post is submitted by a calm and reasonable man who is himself the product of a large public research institution's school of law.)

As if breathing the breath that comes from their Heavenly Father’s hand weren’t enough, as if the fruit of the Holy Spirit and centuries of Christian spiritual capital deposited into education weren’t enough, Vanderbilt University leadership takes money from Christians hand over fist and then gags the Christian conscience. The money I’m talking about isn’t tuition paid by Baptist or Episcopalian students. It’s the nearly half billion dollars of federal money that Vanderbilt has steam-shoveled into its coffers. In 2009 alone. Vanderbilt even brags that it broke the Top 25 varsity ranking in its haul of federal collegiate pork. You can find more details on the webpage maintained by Vanderbilt’s “Office of Federal Relations.” Some relations.

So why is federal largesse (i.e., tax receipts and U.S. sovereign debt) Christian money? The vast majority of Americans who pay federal income, capital gains, excise, and a motley assortment of other federal taxes identify themselves as Christians. Further, it’s likely that our descendants...

to the thousandth generation will pay tens of trillions of dollars of debt the federal government has maniacally racked up since the dawn of the New Deal. At a day not too distant, quadrillion will enter everyday fiscal parlance.

The problem is two-fold. First, a private citizen’s means to maintain independence from government are taxed clean away. Second, through a vast, labyrinthine spoils system, the extracted wealth is transferred to other entities, a “private research university,” for example, who tells the Christian to keep his religion to himself as it makes sure he’s never alone on campus. Vanderbilt’s billing itself as a “private research university” would be on par with the City of San Francisco billing itself as a Silicon Valley start up launching an IPO. It’s ludicrous. Put differently, think of the government taking your mini van, handing the keys to a thug, and then allowing him to run over your children.

This goes well beyond First Amendment jurisprudence. The government isn’t just growing bigger and bigger. As government devours more and more GDP, its essential character is mutating into something hideous and demonically oppressive, especially as it works to empower, manipulate, and corrupt so-called private institutions that feed from its hand. Vanderbilt couldn’t have gotten away with the gag order if it weren’t backed by the full faith and credit of the United States of America. I, for one, demand my money back. And my great-great grandchildren’s. Seriously.


A winning legal argument could perhaps be made out of that. The federal government notoriously controls universities by threatening to withdraw research funds if the university doesn't do as it wishes in areas completely remote from research. It could do the same here, threatening to cut off federal research funds from any university that discriminates on the basis of religion (which Vanderbilt says it's isn't doing, but is lying about).

I suppose the Tennessee legislature could try a smaller version of that: pass a bill saying that nonprofits which discriminate on the basis of religion lose their tax-exempt status.

Note, however, that both of these would also penalize universities that require their officers or professors to be Christian (or Jewish, or whatever), or even that have a preference for hiring Christians. Plus, I think the existing federal control of private and state universities via threats of withdrawing research money are unconstitutional incursions on federalism.

Forcing Vanderbilt (a private university) to allow all groups will only provide a Band-Aid solution. The problem is fixed for now, but is multiplied one-hundredfold when that principle is applied to force other private universities (for example, Christian universities) to allow whatever groups the government deems appropriate. Rather than give the government more power over private universities, it's better to actually appeal to the people in charge of the universities. Write the administration. Appeal to their principles (they have a few) or their pride (they have a lot) or their purse. The best thing we can hope for isn't a change of laws; it's a change of heart.


>>Vanderbilt (a private university)

Private universities that live off taxpayers' money are, as our author pointed out, forced by the government to do all kinds of things all the time. This is no different. And concerning Vandy's claim to be a private university, in what sense is this true when our good author has pointed out that Vandy is drowning in our tax dollars.

We might not like the specter of Calvin and Wheaton and Covenant being forced to accept Muslims and atheists, but there's always the Grove City and Hillsdale and New St. Andrews way. They refuse to take any government money and it's evident in how much better--much, much better--of a job they do exposing and opposing postmodern idolatries than Calvin, Wheaton, and Covenant.


Certainly, but they are a private university by name, so creating a law that restricts private universities as a principle has the potential to be used as precedent against any private university. I mention this because there has been talk of the Tennessee legislature responding with a law of some sort, and this is the kind of situation where we have to be careful.

On a side-note: "the specter of Calvin and Wheaton and Covenant being forced to accept Muslims and atheists"? I wonder how long it will be before force is no longer necessary.


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