Ironically, the very freedom Vanderbilt administrators have to make their unfortunate decision derives from a 19th-century Supreme Court case that led to the proliferation of Christian colleges such as Vanderbilt, founded under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1873.
Dartmouth College vs. Woodward originated in 1815, when the Dartmouth Board of Trustees fired the college president, who then appealed to the state legislature for intervention. Having granted Dartmouth’s charter in 1769, the New Hampshire legislature revoked it, instead forming the University of Dartmouth and filling its board with state supporters.
Very few students attended the new university, and the original one remained intact with 130 students. It was a diminished institution without state support, but with persecution came blessing””including a “wonderful interest [in Christ],” according to the record of the Dartmouth Theological Society, and the conversion of 60 students.