The Religious Dorm at the Public University

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There are many clues that life at the newest residence hall on the campus of Troy University is not centered on parties and beer.

In the lobby, students with Bibles gather to offer Christian testimony. On a dorm-room door, a chalkboard holds a passage from Psalms.

And in the 2,300-square-foot Catholic-run ministry center, evenings are given over to clergy-led discussions on the meaning of God and a few good-natured rounds of “Stump the Priest.”

Citing reports from students who say they are hungry for more faith-based options on campus and national surveys that show a strong interest in spirituality among college freshman, officials at Troy, Alabama’s third-largest public university, this semester opened the Newman Center residence hall, a roomy 376-bed dormitory that caters to students who want a residential experience infused with religion.

Kosher dorms, Christian fraternity houses and specialized housing based on values have become part of modern college life. But the dorm on this campus of 7,000 students is among a new wave of religious-themed housing that constitutional scholars and others say is pushing the boundaries of how much a public university can back religion.

Written By: Kim Severson
continue to source article at nytimes.com

37 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by Roedy:

      You go to university to open your mind, not have it sealed. I suspect this is more a controlling parent idea hoping it will keep daughter from getting pregnant.

      Because everyone knows how successful abstinence only sex education is.

      Also “to offer Christian testimony”, so is testimony now a synonym for assertion? If so, who are the judge and jury?

  1. Do religious people simply lack the intellectual capacity needed to understand the First Amendment? And who is the clown talking about how atheism is a “faith”? We keep fighting the same stupid battles.

    • Never underestimate the power of religions to turn their adherents into masochistic, submissive, flagellants.

      To be fair, as Roedy noted in Comment 1, this is more about making parents feel comfortable than it is about students:

      The parents are the most excited.

      Uh-huh.

      … reports from students who say they are hungry for more faith-based options on campus …

      I’d like to see those reports, and hear from those students, please. Even then, I’d be highly suspicious of overbearing parental influence.

      The OP basically admits this is the real agenda:

      [Vice Chancellor Schmidt first said] … the University would give preference to students who were Christian … [then later said] … he had mis-stated the rules [earlier] The dorm is open to all students who meet some minimum requirements …

      News just in: Mr. Schmidt knows someone who has actually read the US Constitution – probably the University’s Counsel.

      My question is this: Why do they need a ‘faith’ dormitory? What’s wrong with building a Temple / Pyramid / Sacrificial Altar next door?

      I can think of no answer to that question that doesn’t make a liar out of Matt Zerrusen (President of the Catholic fund that paid for the new Dorm).

      It’s definitely an evangelization opportunity, which is why we went down there

      As a faith-based facility, you don’t want to exclude anybody

      You can’t have it both ways Matt – either this is establishing a religious institution on campus or it’s just a Dorm.

      From the Newman Hall home page:

      Sea Newman Hall is a faith-based residence hall …

      Build up that wall.

      Peace.

    • In reply to #2 by Matt G:

      Do religious people simply lack the intellectual capacity needed to understand the First Amendment? And who is the clown talking about how atheism is a “faith”? We keep fighting the same stupid battles.

      In the order the questions were asked: Yes, don’t know, and yes, we do, don’t we!

  2. Interesting how the problems are different either side of the pond. In US minds are being shut down by the groupthink associated with evangelical Christianity. In Europe it’s socialism and Islam but the central issue is the same. ‘Join our group and stop thinking’.

    • In reply to #3 by Streagan:

      In Europe it’s socialism and Islam but the central issue is the same. ‘Join our group and stop thinking’.

      I didn’t know Islam was taking over universities in Europe or that socialism was making a comeback.

      In Australia universities are being reformed with science being pruned to be replaced by capitalism, chiropractic and theology. The demand for such courses is fostered in private schools and state schools, with taxpayer funded chaplains to fill the spiritual gap to elite religious schools.

      • In reply to #4 by Len Walsh:

        In reply to #3 by Streagan:

        In Europe it’s socialism and Islam but the central issue is the same. ‘Join our group and stop thinking’.

        I didn’t know Islam was taking over universities in Europe or that socialism was making a comeback.

        You might do some research; remove the words ‘universities in’ and the truth appears.
        Liberal leftist idealism has enabled Islam to spread its rotten tentacles by assuming it is
        “just another religion”.

        • In reply to #7 by Billy Joe:

          In reply to #4 by Len Walsh:
          .

          You might do some research; remove the words ‘universities in’ and the truth appears. Liberal leftist idealism has enabled Islam to spread its rotten tentacles by assuming it is “just another religion”…

          Ah yes, the Truth about Islam according to latent Xianity. I’ve researched that already, and it turns out to be just another religion.

          When you remove the words ‘universities’ from my conversation with Streagan, the precise point I was making to him/her simply evaporates.

          Removing ‘university’ from the OP post would render it complete gibberish.

          Latent Xians are unconscious drones. Fundamentalists, moderates and lapsed Xians all understand why they favour cultural Xianity to anything foreign. Latent Xians can’t appreciate their own biases. They imagine a western identity being rapidly polluted by Islam. Xians preaching in universities over the pond are inconsequential compared to the looming, breeding, conniving hazard that tentacled Muslims pose. It’s not them however, it’s their non-western religion.

          Ok. I get you’re worried about communists colluding with Muslims to take over Britain, but we were discussing universities you know. Your larger Truth, or phobia, is another discussion.

        • In reply to #7 by Billy Joe:

          In reply to #4 by Len Walsh:

          In reply to #3 by Streagan:

          In Europe it’s socialism and Islam but the central issue is the same. ‘Join our group and stop thinking’.

          I didn’t know Islam was taking over universities in Europe or that socialism was making a comeback.

          You might do some research; remov…

          Hmmm I would say right wing ideologues over the pond with absolutely no understanding of European politics and an incorrect assumption that every thinking person recognises “socialism” as a bad thing.
          The socialist republic of France has recently banned the veil in public places after all.

          Don’t assume that everybody on this site shares your own political view just because they happen to be atheistic.
          Socialism to me has nothing to do with communism and everything to do with equality of opportunity and access to healthcare for all. It far more humanist in its alignment.

          Its not aligned to right wing hate groups but to me thats a good thing because these groups aren’t humanist either. I agree many socialists have the confusion that fighting racism necessitates supporting harmful religious and cultural values but don’t assume all do.

    • In reply to #3 by Streagan:

      Interesting how the problems are different either side of the pond. In US minds are being shut down by the groupthink associated with evangelical Christianity. In Europe it’s socialism and Islam but the central issue is the same. ‘Join our group and stop thinking’.

      Whilst I agree that there is an issue with the rise of Islamism (extremist, fundamentalist Islamists) I’m not sure that I recognise what you say about socialism within Europe. Whilst I have a fairly narrow view of Europe from here in the UK I’m not aware of any socialist groups saying “Join us and stop thinking” and more than extremist, far right groups would be saying the same thing. Though I’ve heard of several countries with growing far-right political parties, verging on fascist in their beliefs, I’m unaware of any socialist movements that pose a similar threat. Maybe you could illucidate?

  3. Stop judging that you may not be judged.

    The fact that they are stating this means they have already stopped making judgements based on sound epistemological assumptions. We make judgements all the time and at the very least the function is a central component of formal rationality. Kant placed it above all other cognitive functions. The trick is to make reasonable and appropriate judgements based on appropriate knowledge sources and to know that the knowledge can be verified or falsified. It takes no particular wisdom to make any judgement. If you think the earth is flat, Jeebus walks on water and Mo flies on Al Buraq everything else you base your judgements on looks like science.

  4. How exactly are they breaking the first amendment? They have every right to speak out about what it is they want from their experience at the University to which they have chosen to go. If the university is willing to comply then I don’t see the issue. The problem I do see is the attacks coming to them simply because they spoke up.

    • Thank you for helping me make my point (@2). Are you sure you read the entire article? Carefully?

      In reply to #6 by bjchiaro50:

      How exactly are they breaking the first amendment? They have every right to speak out about what it is they want from their experience at the University to which they have chosen to go. If the university is willing to comply then I don’t see the issue. The problem I do see is the attacks coming to t…

    • In reply to #6 by bjchiaro50:

      Hi BJ,

      I found your comment curious:

      How exactly are they breaking the first amendment?

      Perhaps by “they” you mean Troy University … (?) By establishing of a “faith-based facility” (their words, not mine) they’re making a specifically religious institution on campus. Troy University is a public university, established by an Act of the Alabama Legislature. Troy is bound, by law, to ensure that its existence makes no “establishment of religion” (text of 1st Amendment). The fact that they broke the law could not be more clear-cut.

      If, on the other hand, by “they” you mean the religious organisations that funded the “faith-based facility” – they have every right to build any religious building they like, except on public land, and (as reported) using a public body’s donation.

      Or perhaps, by “they”, you mean the students that live in the “faith-based facility”? They have every right to express their religion. They simply cannot make a religious institution on public land. By attending a faith-based facility (and one which is, arguably, a membership organization) each student in this dormitory is effectively guilty of establishing a religion on campus and that’s against the law because it is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

      Really, this stuff isn’t hard.

      They [assumed: students] have every right to speak out about what it is they want from their experience at the University to which they have chosen to go.

      Yes they do, and no-one is speaking out against that – you’re point would be?

      The OP is not about people speaking out – it’s about people acting against the law. The United States has this little thing called democracy. The People are involved in making, and changing, the laws using democracy. Once they’re agreed the People all have to follow the laws – otherwise the whole process would just be a waste of time.

      If the University is willing to comply then I don’t see the issue.

      Right, so BP should be free to not clean up in the Gulf of Mexico. BP are an institution too, just like the University. BP digs for oil, Troy teaches young people, but otherwise they’re both in it for the greater good of mankind – and ordinary people should just get out of the way? Surely you can’t mean that?

      The problem I do see is the attacks coming to them simply because they spoke up.

      Where? This is a fantasy BJ, no-one is attacking anyone – and especially not anyone’s speech rights.

      Peace.

    • They are violating the constitution because it is occurring at a Publicly funded University. There are plenty of uber-religious universities where the entire campus is run in the particular religious way. Look to Liberty University for a perfect example. Absolutely zero problem there (constitutionally) (lots of silly bullshit nonsense going on…)
      But, my MONEY is going to this practice and I don’t want it to. Public money is WITHOUT RELIGION. That is why it is public. the founding fathers saw the utility of this to the point where they made it the FIRST amendment of the constitution.

      If I have to live by the constitution (all of it); then everyone has to live by the constitution (all of it).

      In reply to #6 by bjchiaro50:

      How exactly are they breaking the first amendment? They have every right to speak out about what it is they want from their experience at the University to which they have chosen to go. If the university is willing to comply then I don’t see the issue. The problem I do see is the attacks coming to t…

  5. IMO the story of salvation is the most boring tale ever told.
    Don’t these people get enough of this at church and at home? They can be as pious as they want on campus without asking for special recognition.Just sit quietly in a corner and read your bible.Maybe the edifying tale of Elisha who called upon the Lord to punish children who called him Baldy and were subsequently,(through the grace of god,which passeth all understanding) torn to pieces by wolves, I think.

    Proselytizing must be a big part of this,no matter how they deny it,as also is “keeping themselves apart” from unbelievers as if we are horribly diseased or something!
    These people want to saturate society with their brand of religion and this fills me with repugnance.

  6. This would seem to be trying to revive the dark-ages, when “monastic learning”, infused faith-head routine delusional indoctrination, into all forms of literacy and education, which were then relegated to being fitted into the odd spaces left in a sleep-deprived life of prayer in inward-looking establishments.

    And in the 2,300-square-foot Catholic-run ministry center, evenings are given over to clergy-led discussions on the meaning of God and a few good-natured rounds of “Stump the Priest.”

    “Clergy-led discussions on the meaning of God”, just about sums up an utter retreat into deep delusion!

    a few good-natured rounds of “Stump the Priest.”

    I thought that a more critical rational form of that, was regularly played here on RDFRS !

  7. “It is faith-based housing, but faith can be anything from atheism to Catholicism,” said Dom Godwin, a 19-year-old Catholic. Less than 3 percent of Alabama’s population is Catholic.

    I wonder how successful an openly atheistic student would be at securing a room in this facility, even arguing that his/her non-belief was a “faith”.

    Steve

  8. for me education is about the facts from the real world, to gain knowledge that’s applicable in the real world.

    religion is therefore excluded and should have nothing to do with education, religion is something to be done in ones own free time like a hobby and not waste precious time in class with fairy tales.

    just like there isn’t a Christian answer to a math problem and a different Muslim answer to the same problem, or a Jewish type of cancer only to be solved by Jewish education, it’s therefore nonsense to teach religion in school.

  9. People with broken legs need crutches. Just give it time and we’ll be hearing some raunchy, devil induced debauchery coming out of this place. I’m putting my money on a drunken, christian, porno orgy video coming to a computer near you… soon.

  10. The university is not only comprised of public money but also by the money of each student that attends that university. To call Christianity a religion is to completely miss the point. Christianity is not a religion, it is a more broad category that has many religions underneath it. Just because it is called a faith based dorm doesn’t make it establishment of religion. And which one of the many religions did Troy establish by creating the dorm?

    • In reply to #23 by bjchiaro50:

      To call Christianity a religion is to completely miss the point. Christianity is not a religion, it is a more broad category that has many religions underneath it.

      Christianity is a group of religious denominations and sects, as is Islam.

      Just because it is called a faith based dorm doesn’t make it establishment of religion.

      It has been made plain that it is a centre of religious faith promoting Xtian religion – possibly of various flavours, but run by one which has a dogmatic track record. This quote should make it pretty obvious!

      And in the 2,300-square-foot Catholic-run ministry center, evenings are given over to clergy-led discussions on the meaning of God and a few good-natured rounds of “Stump the Priest.

      And which one of the many religions did Troy establish by creating the dorm?

      The project began with John Schmidt, senior vice chancellor for advancement and external relations and an active member of the Roman Catholic Church.

      I think “Catholic-run ministry center” gives a clear indication!

      “It is not about proselytizing, but about bringing **a values-based opportunity*** to this campus,” said Troy’s chancellor, Jack Hawkins Jr.

      It does not take much literacy to spot the double-talk, and work out which religious “values” the opportunist proselytizing is promoting!

      In fact when looking at comments from other spokesmen:-

      .. .. .has plans to expand to a public university in Florida next year and to keep rolling out a dorm or two each year over the next decade, said Matt Zerrusen, the president of the fund.

      The South, with its large population of churchgoers, is particularly ripe. “It’s definitely an evangelization opportunity, which is why we went down there,” he said.

      Apparently “evangelization opportunities” are not considered to be “proselytizing”, – at least not when viewed through the evangi-blinker-specs of those trying to square a triangular circle of constitution dodging!

    • So, let’s do a thought exercise. Let’s substitute other words for “christianity” and see if it would be ok to have a dorm just for “those people” funded by tax payers. How about a dorm just for rich white preppies? How about poor white goths? Let’s have a heavy metal dorm; or better yet, a hip hop dorm with only African Americans allowed? After all, these are all just “broad categories”. Would you pay for any of them? And, this is not even close to apples and apples because THERE IS NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BARRING A HIP HOP DORM. But, I’d bet that many of the people standing up for the religious dorm would crap all over the hip hop dorm.

      I like this. Let’s have a dorm just for republicans. Or democrats…. or (shudder to think) INDEPENDENTS!!!

      How about we put all the pakistani kids (or hindi, or shinto, or buddhists) into one dorm and have yoga and incense and chanting and prayer rugs and festivus for the restofus and YOU get to foot the bill?
      How about a dorm where you have to have an IQ over 150 and 1400 on your SAT??? Oh, that’s right, that is the SCIENCE DORM!!!

      Troy did not violate the establishment clause by creating the dorm. They violated it by funding it with taxpayer money.
      And, to simply declare “Christianity is not a religion” is to be evasive and duplicitous.

      How about this, since Christianity is NOT a religion, they all start paying their FUCKING TAXES? You can’t have it both ways, which way is it? How truly convenient, it IS a religion when the tax man passes by and suddenly it ISN’T a religion when it suits your agenda.

      What a load of horse shit.

      In reply to #23 by bjchiaro50:

      The university is not only comprised of public money but also by the money of each student that attends that university. To call Christianity a religion is to completely miss the point. Christianity is not a religion, it is a more broad category that has many religions underneath it. Just because it…

  11. Mr DNA
    Hmmm I would say right wing ideologues over the pond with absolutely no understanding of European politics and an incorrect assumption that every thinking person recognises “socialism” as a bad thing. The socialist republic of France has recently banned the veil in public places after all.

    I have to agree Mr DNA, socialism is what has given us the means to get rid of much of our religion here in Europe! Where it remains it tends to be so wishy washy as to be not worth bothering with.

    We have state funded and state run hospitals in the UK that we pay taxes towards. The US has big corporate business, religious hospitals and very poor health care per dollar. And of course religion on a par with most third world countries!!!

    Give me socialism, cos its given me freedom!

  12. I love this quote in the article from a certain Stella Burak. By “love”, I really mean to say that “my head exloded” from the irony .

    “We have to be tolerant of so many things…”

    Yeah, Stella. So many people in religion are tolerant of other beliefs, cultures, or lifestyles that might not fit into their own belief system. People are continually defending their own beliefs and freedoms from that “tolerance”.

    “… but nobody has to be tolerant of religion.”

    Well, Stella, we have that pesky little First Amendment thingie that pretty much cancels out that argument. The very same amendment that this faith-based university housing initiative kinda transgresses is the same one that protects your right to freely exercise your religion. By the way, freely exercising your religion does not mean you can require special treatment from a government entity. Not to mention all the butthurt I hear on a daily basis from religious leaders that they’re “discriminated” against because they can’t enforce their religion’s view of morality on the general population.

  13. How about this, since Christianity is NOT a religion, they all start paying their FUCKING TAXES? You can’t have it both ways, which way is it? How truly convenient, it IS a religion when the tax man passes by and suddenly it ISN’T a religion when it suits your agenda.

    First off how exactly is Christianity a religion? There are a lot of religions and sects underneath the term Christianity. Those religions are exempt from taxes and they shouldn’t be. However, maybe you should not get so emotional since this is a place for open discussion right? And I am sorry that you have failed to understand my point I obviously haven’t illustrated it well enough.

    • I am not emotional. I have posted on this site for close to six years and you are not the first one to think that i am “angry” or “emotional”. It is just my writing style. Do not be put off by it, I am just very direct and use my words sharply.

      I guess your point has been lost on me. Perhaps you should try again. Let’s see if I have it or not.
      Christianity is not “really” a religion because it is a blanket statement that includes many different sects and factions. It is for this reason that the constitution has not been breached because there is no actual religion that has been favored.

      So,how did I do? What you have to understand is that I do not care how many splinters there are in the baseball bat. It is still a bat to me. A technicality like “many sects” doesn’t minimize the fact that the religious play a double agent type game. When it suits them they say “it is not a religion” and when it suits them they say “it is a religion”.

      Alan 4 does a very good job in post #26 pointing out exactly what it is, IN PRACTICE. You seem to be saying “in theory” it is not establishment. However, take in all the details. They are, in practice, violating the constitution.

      In reply to #29 by bjchiaro50:

      How about this, since Christianity is NOT a religion, they all start paying their FUCKING TAXES? You can’t have it both ways, which way is it? How truly convenient, it IS a religion when the tax man passes by and suddenly it ISN’T a religion when it suits your agenda.

      First off how exactly is Chris…

  14. I must admit humbly that you guys have persuaded me that this is not simply an innocent plea for dorms that have Christian values but instead something deeper and more sinister. The truth is I now agree with the conclusion that many of you have come to and I can appreciate the dialogue that has gone on between us.

    • Awesome! Your quick post has said so so much about you and your character. Nice speaking with you (ok ok AT you at first, but eventually WITH you). Please bring your willingness to exchange ideas to other threads and do not hesitate to engage. BRAVO.

      In reply to #32 by bjchiaro50:

      I must admit humbly that you guys have persuaded me that this is not simply an innocent plea for dorms that have Christian values but instead something deeper and more sinister. The truth is I now agree with the conclusion that many of you have come to and I can appreciate the dialogue that has gone…

  15. If someone turns up and says that they believe in the gods of Olympus, will the college authorities put up statues of the Greek/Roman gods? What about Shiva, Buddha, etc? I’d like to see a load of Druids turn up and insist on a replica of Stone Henge on the back lawn!

    (Yes, I know Stone Henge isn’t a Druid monument, but I used the example purely for effect. Hopefully you get the point.)

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