treene at BECKETFUND.ORG
Mon Dec 21 17:35:07 PST 1998
For those interested in the Dartmouth C.S. Lewis incident, below is an
update from the Campus Crusade for Christ leader at Dartmouth. It includes
several articles by the Valley News, including a statement of the editorial
board of the newspaper explaining why there has been some confusion about
the case. It appears--as I read it-- that the memo and news story I first
forwarded to the list are correct (I sent a subsequent retraction/caveat to
the list when I received an e-mail from a friend saying that the newspaper
report may have been wrong).
Greetings from Hanover,
Here is an update on the C.S. Lewis book gifts intended for the entire
freshman class at Dartmouth College. As you may recall, at the last minute
dean of the College intervened to stop -- and then selectively determine
freshmen we would be allowed to give a copy of the book as a holiday gift
Campus Crusade for Christ.
Our New Hampshire/Vermont regional newspaper, the VALLEY NEWS, picked up the
story and headlined their front page the next day with "College Limits Free
Distribution of Lewis' Book on Christianity." Several hours later that
morning, the dean called to amend his position and officially release us to
send _Mere Christianity_ to any or all students we wished.
However, at the conclusion of that call, the dean (Scott Brown) reiterated
fact that our Jewish, Catholic, and Lutheran campus ministry colleagues had
insisted that we not send any books to freshmen from their respective
religious traditions -- nor to any freshmen identified as coming from a non-
Christian religious background. Scott told us that the restrictions against
sending books to students from those various backgrounds and perspectives
When summed together, students from Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran and non-
Christian religious backgrounds probably represent 50 percent of Dartmouth's
freshman class -- yet we had no practical way to readily identify all the
students we were "not allowed" to send a C.S. Lewis book. Plus, the
students were in final exams and would be heading home for the holidays very
shortly. Given these constraints, we ultimately decided to pull all the
temporarily, in order to regroup over the Christmas break and determine a
workable solution to this situation for when the students return.
Over the past two weeks, the story has taken on a life of its own -- from TV
network news coverage, to national radio and print media, to reports posted
internet websites. Because of the "censorship on campus" aspect to the
and Dartmouth's high-profile stature, the secular media has shown interest
has the religious media. We continue to receive inquiries daily from
individuals, organizations and publications.
Locally, the VALLEY NEWS staff has also pursued the story. Their
and courage has helped bolster our case. The newspaper has called into
question the dean's and some of our fellow chaplains' actions, as well as
identified contradictions in their statements on the record.
If you are interested in reading more about all this, attached below are the
texts from three VALLEY NEWS articles following the initial front page
headline on Friday, December 4 (e-mailed to you two weeks ago).
* First is a copy of the VALLEY NEWS editorial board's pointed summary
comments on the matter. This was published in last Saturday's edition
December 12, 1998).
* Following that is Dartmouth dean Scott Brown's (a Harvard Law Scool grad)
prior, closely-worded Letter to the Editor published December 8, 1998 about
* And third is another front-page article by VALLEY NEWS staff following up
on their original headline story (dated December 11, 1998).
Thanks for your interest and for praying with us about this situation. Thus
far things have gone quite well and we are making alternate arrangements to
distribute the gift copies of _Mere Christianity_ when the students return
after New Years. But we are not out of the woods yet, and there are many
internal "political" dimensions to this situation, which we must navigate
carefully and wisely. Please continue to remember us before the Father, as
well as these simple efforts to lift up Christ on campus.
All the best,
VALLEY NEWS Editorial Board's official position statement
December 12, 1998
Opinion, page A-12
headline: MERE MEDDLING
Last Friday, the VALLEY NEWS published a disturbing article reporting
that a Dartmouth College dean had intervened to limit the distribution of a
religious book through the campus mail system.
No one disputed the accuracy of the report, but the college official,
Tucker Foundation dean Scott Brown, faxed a letter to the newspaper that
day which described what had occurred and, not surprisingly, cast his
in a more favorable light. According to Brown, the distributors of the
offending material -- the book _Mere Christianity_ by well-regarded author
C.S. Lewis -- had attended a meeting with him and other religious leaders to
discuss how how the book could be sent to students without giving offense.
(The distributors, Campus Crusade for Christ, had sent free copies to
last year, and several Jewish students had objected.) Brown's letter said
that the Christian organization never lost its absolute right to distribute
the book, but noted that "how [Campus Crusade] chooses to exercise that
. . . is for it to decide." The letter did acknowledge, however, that Brown
"put a hold" on the book distribution pending the outcome of the meeting.
Brown's verbal juggling is made possible by his implication that the
restrictions were voluntarily accepted by Campus Crusade. But Campus
director Chris West says there was nothing voluntary about the restrictions.
They were imposed during the meeting and lifted only after the publication
the VALLEY NEWS article, West said.
Despite the uncontroverted news article published last week, despite
unequivocal assertions by Campus Crusade members that restrictions had been
imposed, and despite his own letter acknowledging the "hold" he put on
distribution, Brown repeated his claim in a VALLEY NEWS article yesterday
no limits had been placed on the group and that he had simply been
misunderstood. Asked directly about what he said to Campus Crusade that led
members to believe they were prohibited from sending the book to non-
Christians, Brown said, "I can't remember what I said in the meeting."
But conveniently for Brown, he can remember enough to recall that he
didn't interfere with the book distribution.
For argument's sake, let us suppose that Brown's account is accurate:
that campus authorities never interefered but only asked Campus Crusade to
distribute the book in a way that wouldn't offend the handful of non-
Christians who might object to receiving the book. Several questions
* Why weren't similar steps taken when other religious material was
distributed to students -- say, a flier from a Buddhist organization?
that indicate that the problem wasn't that the material was religious, but
that it was Christian?
* In that Brown was responding to campus religious figures who said they
were acting on behalf of the offended students -- a Lutheran minister, a
and a Catholic priest -- who granted authority to these people to decide
was safe for students to receive? Will they be allowed to screen all campus
* And even if Campus Crusade was never directly instructed to stop,
it have felt intimidated when called to a meeting by a college dean? Does
fact that the official was extremely polite when he interfered with their
right to communicate with students make the discriminatory act less
* But the most perplexing question is this: Even if half the campus was
profoundly offended by the distribution of a book written by a distinguished
author, why was it thought important to protect Ivy League students from the
free flow of ideas? How could a Dartmouth official, even for just a few
believe that he could serve the school's fundamental task -- to teach
to think for themselves -- by making the campus off-limits to notions that
might give offense?
Tuesday, December 8, 1998
Page A-7, Opinion -- "The Forum"
Title: "Spreading Word on Campus"
To the Editor:
I am writing to provide information relevant to your December 4 article
headlined, "College Limits Free Distribution of Lewis' Books on
The Campus Crusade for Christ is free to distribute copies of any
material it chooses to whomever it chooses on the Dartmouth campus. Under
college policy, any recognized student organization may distribute materials
through the campus mail system and by any other means. The free exchange of
ideas is, after all, at the very heart of the academy.
Last year, the Campus Crusade for Christ distributed materials of its
choosing to all first-year students, and subsequently students complained to
the Tucker Foundation. At the time, the Tucker Foundation (which works with
all campus ministries) suggested to Campus Crusade's leaders that they think
about how and to whom they distribute such materials in the future.
With another such distribution being recently planned, the leadership
the Campus Crusade for Christ agreed to a meeting to discuss with those
interested parties the issues such action might raise, and I put a hold on
distribution of the mailing pending that discussion.
At a series of meetings on December 3, various religious leaders on
campus shared the problems they had with the planned distribution, and we
discussed possible alternative ways of proceeding that might achieve the
organization's purposes while accommodating the concerns expressed by
I think the Campus Crusade leadership and all others felt it was a
and useful meeting.
The Campus Crusade for Christ, and any other recognized student
organization, has the right to distribute material, regardless of content,
through the campus mail system. It had that right last year and exercised
It has that same right today. Whether and how it chooses to exercise that
right during the present academic year is for it to decide.
Scott S. Brown
Dean, The Tucker Foundation
Friday, December 11, 1998
front page, A-1
Headline: "Group May Distribute Christianity Book"
By KRISTINA EDDY
Valley News Staff Writer
HANOVER -- The Campus Crusade for Christ has been told it may
free copies of C.S. Lewis' _Mere Christianity_ to all Dartmouth College
students through the campus mail system, but the group's director wants time
to think about the issues surrounding the distribution, which sparked
controversy and claims of censorship last week.
Chris West, director of the Campus Crusade for Christ, said yesterday
that the college had rescinded earlier restrictions limiting to whom the
could mail the book.
A college official, however, said there was never any restriction on
group's use of the campus mail system and those who left a meeting last
Thursday believing he had barred distribution through the system of the book
to non-Christian students had misinterpreted his remarks.
"Campus policy all along has been we strongly support people sharing
their views," Scott Brown, dean of the Tucker Foundation, said in an
yesterday. "There has been no change in policy." The Tucker Foundation
coordinates religious activity on campus.
There was never any question that the group could mail its books
the U.S. Postal Service. The controversy was over whether a mailing without
postage could be done through the campus mail system.
Asked about his statements last Thursday to roughly 25 students that
group was not allowed to use the campus mail system to distribute _Mere
Christianity_ to non-Christian students Brown said, "I can't remember what I
said in the meeting."
His remarks were crystal clear to West. "Dean Brown was very
restricting our sending of those books to at least some students," West said
in a telephone interview. "I'm claiming that's a fact." Joel Stanton, a
Dartmouth senior and member of the group, also said Brown made it very clear
to everyone at the meeting that the group was not allowed to send its book
An article in last Friday's VALLEY NEWS reported Brown's statements
the Campus Crusade for Christ was barred from using campus mailboxes to give
copies of _Mere Christianity_ to Jewish and other non-Christian students.
Neither Brown not any representative of the college contacted the editor of
the VALLEY NEWS to dispute the article.
In an letter to the editor published in The Forum of Tuesday's VALLEY
NEWS, Brown wrote that although he put distribution on hold to allow
discussion of the matter, "the Campus Crusade for Christ is free to
copies of any material it chooses to whomever it chooses on the Dartmouth
The Campus Crusade for Christ has been at Dartmouth since 1980. It is
international organization with a mission to "take love and message of Jesus
Christ to the world," West said.
The Dartmouth group mailed free copies of _Mere Christianity_ to more
than 1,000 first-year students last December, but protests from several
religious leaders tripped up the effort this year.
The Rev. Michael Fonner of Our Savior Lutheran Church, which serves
Dartmouth students, said he asked the Campus Crusade not to distribute the
book to Lutheran students. He made the request in as a show of solidarity
with Rabbi Edward Boraz, who had protested the distribution to Jewish
students. Fonner said he was not sure that Brown, at the December 3
had placed a ban on the group's use of the campus mail system.
If a minority group expresses concern that something may be offensive,
the majority has an obligation to listen, Fonner said.
"At the time, I wished to stand in solidarity with the rabbi and the
Jewish community in expressing concern about books going out to the entire
first-year class of students." He said he has no objection to _Mere
Christianity_ or to Lutheran students being exposed to it.
"If Lutheran students would like the book and are not getting it, I wil
go out and buy them a copy," Fonner said.
The controversy at Dartmouth occurred just days after the 100th
anniversary of the birth of Clive Staples Lewis, a best-selling author who
wrote more than 30 books on subjects ranging from religion to science
to literature and childrens stories.
[Rabbi] Boraz could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could
[Father] John McHugh, who serves Catholic Dartmouth students and asked th
group not to distribute _Mere Christianity_ to Catholic students. Dartmouth
president James Wright could not be reached for comment and acting Provost
Constance Brinckerhoff, to whom [Scott] Brown reports, said she had been out
of town and did not have enough information to comment.
West said the campus ministers overstepped their bounds when they
presumed to try to censor what Dartmouth students could receive in their
"They're assuming a responsibility the students did not ask them to
take," he said.
West said that Brown called him last Friday [shortly after the headline
news story broke, "College Limits Free Distribution of Lewis' Book on
Christianity"] and told him that the book could be mailed out, but by then
[West] and some of the students were headed out of town for term break. "We
all felt . . . any decision we made at that point would be too hasty."
West said the group will distribute the book, but there are issues to
address among the campus ministers before determining the best way to get
books out. "Right now, they're sitting in my garage."
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