Fuller Theological Seminary has joined a growing list of schools where administrators are being pressed by students, alumni, and faculty for designation as a sanctuary campus.
In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election as president, some campuses are considering the moniker “sanctuary campus,” which generally means that the university will not willingly give the government information about their students, staff, or faculty who are undocumented immigrants.
During his campaign, Trump vowed to deport an estimated 11 million foreigners. Since his election victory, he has said he would immediately deport 2 million to 3 million undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of crimes.
Should the leadership of Fuller Theological Seminary adopt the policy changes that the petition requests, it would be one of the first religious institutions to become a sanctuary campus.
Administrators at Fuller couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
The evangelical Fuller is the largest seminary in the country, with 1,542 full-time enrolled students during the 2015-16 academic year, according to the Association of Theological Schools.
The Pasadena, Calif., school has produced famous evangelical leaders, including the founder of Mars Hill Church in Michigan, Rob Bell, author and theologian John Piper, and the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, Bill Bright.
In a letter to the president, students, faculty, and alumni petitioned on Nov. 21 for the school to refuse to comply with immigration officials if they come to deport undocumented members of their community. As of Nov. 23, more than 680 students, faculty, and alumni had signed the petition.
In addition, they requested that the seminary publicly declare “Fuller’s support for and protection of undocumented students, staff, and their families.”
Other campuses, such as Wesleyan University in Connecticut and Cal Tech, have adopted the term “sanctuary campus.” Still, others are circulating similar petitions, and have held demonstrations, trying to get their administrations to identify their institutions as sanctuary campuses. Harvard, Yale, and Columbia are among such colleges where that status is being sought.
Even if a school does not comply with immigration officials, the chancellor of Cal Tech suggested, in an article in the Los Angeles Times, that the government may be able to force the school to cooperate. In addition, a Trump administration, with backing from Congress, could threaten to withhold federal funding for colleges.
The Fuller petition states, “Jesus Christ commanded us to love God and neighbor — thus as Christians we are called to seek the wellbeing of all people, particularly those who are poor, marginalized, discriminated against, and mistreated.”