Charismatic attorney David French fights for religious rights as president of secular civil liberties organization
When the new school year started, ReJOYce in Jesus Campus Fellowship hoped to again attract up to two dozen students to its weekly Bible study meetings.

Affiliated with a charismatic church in Los Angeles, the group spent most of the 2004-05 academic year fighting for official recognition after running afoul of the Milwaukee School of Engineering's (MSE) anti-discrimination policies.

The school yielded in April after intervention by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a Philadelphia-based organization that publicizes campus First Amendment violations.

"We're happy we don't have to have this problem again," said ReJOYce chapter adviser Daphne Wilson. "We just want to continue to do the Lord's work, have our meetings open to everyone and be there to help them and spread the gospel."

The conflict in Milwaukee is only one of numerous battles FIRE pursued in the last year. Among others:

  • Persuading Indian River (Fla.) Community College to allow a student screening of The Passion of the Christ
  • Securing recognition for Princeton University's Faith and Action student group
  • Coordinating a campaign to defend a Catholic philosophy professor stripped of teaching assignments by Lakeland (Ohio) Community College. The professor has since sued the school.

    FIRE fields more than 500 complaints annually, and leading the charge is a charismatic attorney who became the foundation's president in June 2004. "It was a providential opportunity," FIRE President David French said. "It's been a real blessing being here."

    Although French said evangelicals are frequent targets of intolerant administrations, only a third of FIRE's cases involve religious liberty. He said anyone who doesn't toe a politically correct liberal line faces opposition. "They will censor anyone who is not an adherent to their ideology," French said.

    FIRE was founded five years ago by history professor Alan Kors and Boston civil liberties attorney Harvey Silverglate. A professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Kors said FIRE picks up where the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) leaves off, and he faults the ACLU for failing to address free-speech infractions on campus.

    Ironically, Kors and Silverglate come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. And though Kors was raised Jewish, he admires French's integrity and humility. "If anybody embodies the scriptural injunction to let your 'aye be aye and your nay nay,' it's David," Kors said. "He's a person of his word."

    However, not everyone agrees with French's assessments. Roger Bowen, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), called French's claim of intolerant administrators a generalization lacking evidence.

    In addition, Bowen said anti-discrimination policies help campuses remain open to people of all faiths, ideologies, nationalities and sexual preferences.

    "Christians sometimes take exception to people of different faiths or different orientations, and this causes a rub for a campus that professes openness towards all," Bowen told Charisma. "Free speech need not be trumped by anti-discrimination."

    However, Bowen admits there are censorship problems; he said that is why groups such as FIRE, the ACLU and AAUP exist. And the fact that a group as diverse as FIRE is able to press for freedom shows how principles can rise above politics and doctrine, said Kors, who is a frequent speaker to evangelical groups.

    Kors wishes other Christians would stand up for their rights in secular arenas. "When I speak to students of faith … I tell them there may be an ultimate sense where the meek will inherit the earth, but that is not an invitation to not bear witness to one's beliefs," he said.

    French, 36, said his joining a secular organization reflects what he sees happening lately: Christians forming broad alliances to address social problems. "We can't try to make sure everyone arguing with us also believes in the Apostles Creed," French said. "We can't have a litmus test on all these issues."
    Ken Walker

    Best Magazine Deal. Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Charisma, SpiritLed Woman and Ministry Today, all for $24. YES - I want this deal!

    3 Reasons Why you should read Life in the Spirit. 1) Get to know the Holy Spirit. 2) Learn to enter God's presence 3) Hear God's voice clearly! Click Here to draw closer to God!

    Your Turn

    Comment Guidelines
    View/Add Comments
    • Donald Trump certainly needs your prayers.

      Why You Must Pray for Donald Trump

      Here are eight ways I plan to intercede for President Trump regularly.

    • Here's a prophetic word for Washington, D.C.

      Prophecy: The Lord Is Raising Up Daniels in DC

      I believe we're on the precipice of a Third Great Awakening the Lord spoke to my heart about in ...

    • Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

      Inner Healing Is the Fruit of the Spirit

      I have been puzzled about the subject of inner healing for some time.

    • 2017 is the year that swords will clash.

      Prophetic Word: 2017 Will Bring a Clashing of Heaven and Hell

      "This is a time to cross over and not pull back."

    • Roadblock

      6 Roadblocks That Will Stop Your Spiritual Growth

      God wants you to grow in your faith, but many of us get stuck along the way.

    • Cindy Jacobs

      2017: Year of the Breakthrough

      "There will be a significant increase in miracles and signs and wonders."

    • The devil will try to silence you in any way he can. Don't give him the satisfaction.

      Satan's 2 Most Potent Lies to Render You Ineffective

      There's something in you so powerful that Satan doesn't want it out. Kyle Winkler reveals ...

    • Foot washing

      Shaking the Gates of Hell With a Basin of Water and a Towel

      "When I saw His foot, I knew He had come to take back territory the enemy had stolen from His ...

    • Are you willing to volunteer for God's offensive army?

      Prophetic Word: Preparing for God's World War 3

      God is searching for soldiers of the cross who are willing to volunteer for His offensive army.

    • Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

      Continue Your Journey with the Holy Spirit

      Follow God on the most fulfilling journey of your life with Encounter the Holy Spirit! Break away from past hurts and press into the One who wants a personal encounter with you.

    • Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

      Dream the Unimaginable In His Presence

      Reach your full potential and be led by His Spirit. In His Presence takes you to a deeper understanding of who God is and how he communicates with us.

    • Set Your Spirit on Fire

      Set Your Spirit on Fire

      Receive the power and gifts that come through the Holy Spirit Baptism. Don’t go empty-handed; accept all that He has for you! His power is available to those who ask.

    • Put on the Full Armor of God

      Put on the Full Armor of God

      Break every stronghold with the power of the Holy Spirit. Use the power of your tongue to declare and decree the Word of God. Witness heaven move on your behalf.

    Use Desktop Layout
    Charisma Magazine — Empowering believers for life in the Spirit