SAVANNAH, Ga. — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and National Legal Foundation have reached an agreement with Savannah State University that will allow a Christian student group to return to campus. The university suspended the group, Commissioned II Love, in April 2006 after university officials deemed the group’s act of sharing the Gospel as “harassment” and its practice of washing the feet of new members as “hazing.” The school later expelled the group from campus.
“Christian student groups shouldn’t be discriminated against because of their beliefs. The Constitution specifically protects religious expression,” said ADF Litigation Staff Counsel Joseph Martins with the ADF Center for Academic Freedom.
Officials at Savannah State expelled Commissioned II Love from campus on Sept. 11, 2006, alleging that the group violated its April 2006 suspension when some of its members individually participated in a contemporary Christian music event at DisneyWorld.
Savannah State officials had accused the student ministry of engaging in “harassment” because its members shared their faith with other students and “hazing” because its leaders washed the feet of new members in an act of service. Foot washing is an ancient Christian custom reflecting Jesus’ service and love for his disciples. The university had charged that foot washing is “an activity which endangers or is likely to endanger the physical health of a student, regardless of the student’s willingness to participate in such activity.”
“The university is doing the right thing now in allowing this student group to return to being part of the campus community in the same way as other groups who also hold to distinctive beliefs and practices,” said attorney Barry Hodge of NLF.
In August 2007, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia denied the university’s motion to dismiss the student group’s lawsuit, Commissioned II Love v. Yarbrough, refusing to throw out any of the group’s claims.
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is defending religious freedom at America’s public universities. ADF is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.