A Baptist college in Alabama has blocked the formation of a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) chapter, in part because the group’s founding document is too aggressively anti-communist.
Students at Samford University have been petitioning to have their new YAF chapter recognized by the school, but found their statement of purpose is an obstacle to recognition.
YAF’s founding document is based on the Sharon Statement, a declaration of conservative principles adopted by 100 young conservatives in 1960 during a meeting at the home of William F. Buckley. The statement notably takes an extremely hostile posture towards communism, in tune with its creation at the height of the Cold War.
“The forces of international Communism are, at present, the greatest single threat to [American] liberties[, and] the United States should stress victory over, rather than coexistence with, this menace,” the statement says.
This hostility to communism caused a faculty committee to veto their petition to create an on-campus YAF chapter, according to Samford conservatives.
“They said if we made some constitutional changes we could be reconsidered next semester but would have to begin the entire process from the start again,” Samford student Karalee Geis told Young America’s Foundation, YAF’s parent organization. “We did not budge on changing the constitution because it is literally from the founding document of YAF. They said that we were not being kind to those who had a communist background.”
A separate email from a Samford official, obtained by YAF, emphasized that the school wanted YAF to “amend or justify the inflammatory language listed in their Purpose.”
“This is the direct statement from the Sharon Statement that, though likely appropriate in 1960, does not hold the same in 2016,” the email said.
“It’s interesting that Samford University, a Christian school, is concerned about protecting its alleged communist club when communist philosophy would traditionally eliminate their religion from society,” Young America’s Foundation said in a statement.
But Philip Poole, a Samford spokesman, strongly disputes YAF’s characterization of events, starting with the claim the group’s application had been rejected.
“In fact, the approval of the organization is deferred, pending additional information from the students who are seeking to achieve official status for YAF,” he told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “The university is following standard protocol for recognition of student organizations.”
Poole did acknowledge, though, that YAF’s application had been held up in part due to the Sharon statement.
“Faculty members were seeking to confirm that opposition to a political ideology would be accomplished in a manner that respects the worth of each individual, as stated within the university’s Code of Values,” he said. “The members of the committee indicated their willingness to further explore these issues with students during their next scheduled meeting in the spring semester.”
The lengthy wait for the next hearing, he said, was simply a quirk of the school’s calendar, since the fall term is about to end and student group applications aren’t considered during the shorter January term.
Importantly, Poole said that YAF’s recognition would have been delayed regardless of their rhetoric on communism, because their application was missing details such as where their funds would go if the group dissolved.