Troy University Creates Christian-Only Dorm

Troy University in Alabama is breaking new ground in discrimination, building a dorm for Christians only, presumably to keep them away from all those dirty heathens on campus. And the euphemisms in defense of the idea are flying through the air like confetti.

University officials say the 376-bed facility is the result of national and internal survey data that showed faith was significantly more important to Troy students than students at other public universities.

“Our mission is certainly to help students earn a degree,” said John Schmidt, senior vice chancellor for advancement and external relations.

“But we also believe that it is equally important to assist students in building a value-based life.”

The new facility gives preference to students who maintain an active spiritual lifestyle and are actively engaged in a campus faith-based organization…

The new housing facility is non-denominational, requiring residents to “be respectful of diversity,” but it will feature a 2,300-square-foot Newman Center leased and operated by the Catholic Archdiocese of Mobile.

Newman Centers are Catholic ministries on non-Catholic universities. Troy’s will include a common area for meetings, a facility for a priest and a chapel.

“The whole idea behind the Newman Center is to help student live their faith, facilitate community service and build and foster interfaith discussions,” Schmidt said.

The residence facility will also host three Catholic and three Baptist resident advisers.

The university, which is public, believes it can get around the First Amendment problem because the facility was built with private money. I’m not so sure that’s true. It is apparently still an official university facility and the university is making the housing assignments, which means they are actively engaging in segregation and discrimination on the basis of religion, something federal law forbids. For that matter, housing discrimination is illegal even if the building is entirely privately owned and operated. FFRF agrees:

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes that preferring Christians over other religions, and even preferring religious students over nonreligious students, violates both Alabama and Federal housing laws.

Seidel goes on to explain that even a preference over religious vs. nonreligious students is also unconstitutional: according to the Supreme Court, “the First Amendment ‘requires the state to be neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers.’”

Seidel also pointed out that the University cannot lawfully “make a determination of how religious a person is, and then discriminate among students based on that determination.” Troy University is constitutionally prohibited from dictating which students are “religious enough” to deserve a room in the new dorm. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment also prohibits a public institution from owning and operating a building with sectarian religious purposes.

I don’t think this is going to fly.

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  • badgersdaughter

    How can this possibly work anyway? Do they imagine Christian college students will be sterling exemplars of morality and worship? Is it going to have Dolores-Umbridge-level surveillance and punishments for stepping out of line? Will there be approved music and dress codes? Will you be forced to move if you aren’t sufficiently devout? And as my friend just pointed out, hilariously… good luck with the co-ed monastery. 😀

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1468751142 Kevin

    But but but — Catholics don’t think other denominations are Christian….and vice versa.

    Oh boy, that kind of “Christian only” dorm would be the scene of the biggest battles on campus.

    A bad idea on top of a bad idea on top of a horrible idea.

    Perhaps the Platonic Ideal of a “bad idea”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CynicalOtaku Nathaniel Frein

    Doesn’t this also violate Equal Opportunity Housing laws?

  • erichoug

    Wow! what an incredibly bad idea from people who should be smart enough to know better.

    I really don’t have an issue with the university setting aside space for people’s faith. The chapel and my Alma Mater was a lovely glass space surrounded by leafy green trees. It was beautiful to be in when the weather wasn’t too warm.

    But, how would you even make this fly?

  • Abby Normal
  • raven

    How are they going to decide who is a True xian and who is a Fake xian?

    There is a huge spectrum of xian beliefs and they don’t much care for each other.

    Oh well, maybe that is what that dorm is for. The xians can spend all their time fighting among themselves like they have done for 2,000 years. The Catholics are looking forward to a rematch anyway, after losing the Reformation wars.

    presumably to keep them away from all those dirty heathens on campus.

    And vice versa. The xians might not want to be around heathens and normal people but it works both ways. I knew there was a reason I didn’t go to a religious university.

    This just gives them another rock to crawl under and hopefully, leave the rest of us alone.

  • jamessweet

    For once, I think it’s too bad that this idea is probably going to get clobbered in court. I say, if the campus Christians want to (literally) ghetto-ize themselves, then by all means! If I was living on a college campus, I’d be happy to hear this — and then just keep plenty of distance between myself and that dorm.

  • raven

    I’m not sure how legal this is.

    Are they going to have Moslem dorms. Jewish dorms. Atheist dorms. Mormon dorms. Pagan dorms.

    Hmmm, a Pagan dorm. Sounds good to me. If they moved it to someplace sensible rather than Alabama, they would be flooded with applications.

  • John Pieret

    I look forward to them “balancing” this with a dorm for atheist/secular students, one for animists/native American spiritualists, one for Bhuddists, ….

  • blf

    If this goes ahead, it will quickly enter the travel / tourist guidebooks as a good place to feed your lions.

  • bahrfeldt

    Seriously, what a crock. Who the fuck gets to decide if a potential resident is Christian enough? And who gets to decide what qualifies as unacceptable criteria getting one kicked out? Lusting in your heart? And who decides who decides?

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    This just gives them another rock to crawl under and hopefully, leave the rest of us alone.

    An $11.8 million rock. That’s over $31,000 per resident.

    This looks less like segregation and more like favoritism. Luxury dorms for the faithful. The non-elect get the crap housing.

  • poxyhowzes

    What an extremely clever ploy by a relatively obscure University!!

    Get a big dollar “private” donor — the RCC and perhaps other Churches — to build you a 376-bed student housing facility by

    Ostensibly reassuring your donor(s) that this will pass muster in Federal Courts, while simultaneously

    “Entangling” (Lemon Rule) church- and state to the point that it can never pass such muster, and,

    When the courts finally rule against you, say “oh well, I guess we’ll just have to assign beds according to secular rules!

    IANAL, but as a scam, it appears an almost perfect way to get around reduced government funding!

    pH

  • bahrfeldt

    In his dorm at R’lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming. Apply within.

  • https://www.facebook.com/al.roderick Al Roderick

    I’m in real estate, we study this annually. There is an exemption for religious discrimination in housing if a religious organization owns a housing unit, and doesn’t charge for it (i.e. a Catholic church can give rooms at a church-owned shelter to the homeless for free and exclude non-Catholics if they choose, though I’ve not seen many that do). Check out fair housing rights dot org. This fails both tests if it’s university land (not owned by a religious organization) and they charge students room and board (not free).

  • oranje

    The other dorms will shortly be a whole lot more fun.

  • otrame

    poxyhowzes,

    I actually like your idea, because I am an optimist and I like the thought that they are being clever instead of being so grossly un-American.

  • raven

    This really doesn’t make much sense.

    There are already places for xian students to go. Many hundreds of religiously affiliated and bible colleges scattered everywhere. The average state probably has a dozen or two.

    Some are OK, SMU, TCU, Notre Dame, the Lutheran ones, Baylor and so on.

    Many are just overpriced baby sitting services where you get a negligible education while maintaining endogamy by finding a spouse from your own tribe.

  • Trebuchet

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens if a couple of Muslim students apply to live there. I hope they do. I actually suspect the dorm would be forced to admit them but the wingnut reaction should be glorious!

  • beezlebubby

    If the “Christian Only” dorm is anything like the Bible Camp I used to attend, there’s going to be a LOT of sex. Bible camp is where repressed middle- and high-school kids to to get laid. I am completely serious about that!

  • steve oberski

    Just goes to show that xtian fundies have woken up to the fact that their nasty cults are hemorrhaging their young demographic, with around 70% ditching their churches after leaving high school.

    This smacks of a rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic response and I say more power to them, let them continue to band-aid the cancer patient of organized religion while the undead corpse continues to rot out from the centre.

  • Synfandel

    “The whole idea behind the Newman Center is to help student live their faith, facilitate community service and build and foster interfaith discussions,” Schmidt said.

    All of which would be more effectively achieved by integrating students than by segregating them. Duh!

  • Synfandel

    @20 beezlebubby wrote:

    If the “Christian Only” dorm is anything like the Bible Camp I used to attend, there’s going to be a LOT of sex.

    If the “Christian Only” dorm is a dorm, there’s going to be a LOT of sex.

  • Sastra

    Whoa!

    I just remembered something which had been obscured by the mists of time: back when I was in college there was talk (and possibly carry through?) about setting aside a few dormitory floors as “Christian.” This was back in the late 70’s at Western Illinois University. There were a lot of dorms.

    Apparently the problem was that many (some?) religious students were “uncomfortable” with the changing mores of student culture. Alcohol was permitted; swearing was common; rock music blared down the hallways and every floor got to vote on whether or not it was okay to allow the opposite sex to come over and spend the night with a consenting resident (guess how that vote always went?) Iirc one of the smaller women’s dorms set aside a “Christian” floor which didn’t actually require that you be Christian. It just required that you wanted an environment filled with peace, piety, Virtue, and Bible verses . A floor free from the horrors of other people on your floor doing what you didn’t like.

    Although I was “spiritual” back then I remember thinking that such isolation rather cut against the whole point of going to college and dealing with diversity. Sure, you could form cliques or groups of people like yourself. But putting yourself in a situation where the RULES precluded close fraternizing with others — or even self-exploration and change — looked like going backwards.

    It never occurred to me at the time that there might be church/state issues involved. Or, if it did, I don’t remember being concerned about them. No — it was the social problem. I did not drink. I would have thought very poorly of myself if I had decided that my personal choice could only function in an environment where nobody else could drink, either.

  • skinnercitycyclist

    OK, I tried to write something intelligent and pithy for this, but I am left with just pithy: Is everybody in Alabama a fucking idiot? These people are university administrators at a public university, presumably among the top tier of Alabama’s intellectual elite…Oh, crap, OK, that last bit just made my head turn inside-out. Heh. Alabama’s intellectual elite. Now there is one of the world’s shortest telephone directories.

  • cptdoom

    But but but — Catholics don’t think other denominations are Christian….and vice versa.

    Oh, I can’t wait to see the first Mormon student try to join the Christian dorm – get the popcorn.

    What an extremely clever ploy by a relatively obscure University!!

    Get a big dollar “private” donor — the RCC and perhaps other Churches — to build you a 376-bed student housing facility by

    Ostensibly reassuring your donor(s) that this will pass muster in Federal Courts, while simultaneously

    “Entangling” (Lemon Rule) church- and state to the point that it can never pass such muster, and,

    When the courts finally rule against you, say “oh well, I guess we’ll just have to assign beds according to secular rules!

    IANAL, but as a scam, it appears an almost perfect way to get around reduced government funding!

    I attended a college that did away with its extensive fraternity system in the 60s because of racial and religious discrimination practiced by the Greeks. All of the fraternities owned their own buildings, but leased their land from the college. All but one chose to sell their buildings to the college. One fraternity, according to legend, demanded a clause in the sale that no black undergraduates ever live in the house. So the college made the building the headquarters for a graduate program aimed at third-world students. I’ve always hoped the story were true, because it was the perfect diss.

  • M can help you with that.

    If I were a student at Troy, I’d be tempted to join/invent a flamboyantly ritualistic religion/sect and take one of those remaining vacancies. Then I could, in the spirit of a “non-denominational” “faith-based” environment, invite my neighbors to join me in my invocations of Cthulhu/Eris/the Invisible Pink Unicorn/whatever at every opportunity.

  • Karen Locke

    A Newman Center ON Campus? That just makes me all squeamish inside. Mind you, I don’t have any particular problems with Newman Centers; when I was in college and still nominally a Catholic, I got married in one. Good memories. But it’s a Catholic church. On campus. On a public campus. No way is this okay.

    As regards Christian housing, I agree it will never get past the courts. Clearly unconstitutional. But part of me remembers the discussions between Catholics and non-Catholic Christians that happened in the dorms when I was going to school, and it strikes me a great diversity-generating experiment. :)

  • eric

    An $11.8 million rock. That’s over $31,000 per resident.

    This looks less like segregation and more like favoritism. Luxury dorms for the faithful. The non-elect get the crap housing.

    I agree. There’s a relatively easy way to nip this sort of bigotry in the bud, but they won’t do it. You assign the dorms the same way people play the childrens ‘cut the cake’ game: you let the private religious organizations build or refurbish whichever dorms they want. Then you let the nonreligious students decide which of the college’s dorms will become the ‘christian only’ one. IOW, you build in an incentive for the bigots to be as even-handed as possible by ensuring they will get the smallest piece of cake.

  • http://adventuresinzymology.blogspot.com JJ831

    OT, kind of reminds me of the Dorms at my Alma Matter. Dorms were co-ed (this was 2003, so one would assume as much), even the bathrooms were co-ed. But one of the buildings had women-only floor. This probably didn’t turn out the way those residents. It was the floor that all the streaking tended to take place on. Granted, the University did (does?) not have a public indecency “law” and one of the big traditions is the campus-wide streaking event during the first rain of the fall.

    Note, I don’t necessarily approve of this harassment, but it seemed those living on the floor got a kick out of it. From what I had gathered from most of the residents, it was their parents that forced them to agree to be on the floor.

  • wpjoe

    @25 sinnercitycyclist, Re: Alabama’s intellectual elite

    Actually, Birmingham is nice and has a great university (UAB, not to be confused with UA). B’ham is diverse, tolerant of different lifestyles, has people of different colors, nationalities, and ideas. My European and Yankee friends used to worry though, when they had to go out into the rural parts of the state.

  • http://www.pandasthumb.org Area Man

    Another thing that struck me is that the dorm is being built on five acres of land. Yes, five acres. I don’t know anything about Troy, but few college campuses have that much prime real estate to burn.

    If you wanted to put up medium-to-low density dwellings, like condos and town homes, five acres is enough to build about 75 units, give or take. And for 376 beds, that would mean 4-5 students per unit at a building cost of around $150,000 each. In other words, they could give the same number of students friggin’ condos for the same amount of land and money, perhaps less.

    So I think they’re going to have a hard time pretending like there’s no discrimination going on here, as if the housing is the same as what everyone else has access to. This is either a very nice dormitory, or they hired a defense contractor to build it.

  • ah58

    Personally, I think this is less about what the students supposedly want and much more about what the student’s parents want. I can see this a ploy to get homeschoolers and fundangelical parents to pick this school over others because they think their kids can still stay in their religious “bubble”. It won’t work of course, even if it’s found to be legal.

  • ricko

    The Newman Center at MY college campus, (University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee) was near, but definitely not ON campus.

    I know, because at that time I was a “Catholic” and it was on the way to the record store where I could get the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Fall and various other bands records. I never went in the Newman Center.

  • Erp

    Some checking

    1. Troy University has 650 acres of land so it isn’t land poor.

    2. The land is apparently officially leased to a third party, the Troy Foundation, and the Catholic diocese in turn leases from them. This might be ok if the land is leased at fair market value.

    3. Officially any religious students not just Christians or Catholics (at least according to the University) but given the Newman center and the nearby Baptist center (I believe it was explicit that 3 RAs would be Baptist and 3 Catholic [but I’m not sure whether that is policy or how it turned out this year]) and the words of John Schmidt, senior vice chancellor for advancement and external relations, Christians are the targeted group.

    4. This dorm is officially part of the University’s housing. Students apply to it through the university and presumably the university collects the rent and passes it along to the foundation.

    I found two other cases at public universities which some have pointed to as similar (there was one other at a private university)

    1. Texas A&M Kingsville has a Catholic dorm; however, it is not on campus land (though they did acquire the land from the University), is explicitly not part of the campus housing, and is run by the Catholic archdiocese. The university does mention it as possible off-campus housing. Any application or fees paid are done directly not through the university. It also does not require you to be Catholic or attend Catholic services.

    2. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also has a Catholic dorm which is listed as “Private Certified Housing” by the university. Again applying and fee paying does not involve the University. It also doesn’t appear to discriminate on religious grounds though it asks for religion on the application (the item is optional).

    Troy University really does seem to have smashed the rules.

  • stacy123

    before I saw the draft 4 $9492, I accept that my neighbour was truley receiving money part time at there labtop.. there friend brother has done this for less than twelve months and as of now cleard the depts on there home and bought a new Cadillac. we looked here BAM21.COM

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    I read something on the internet that might make them KKKristianist parents rethink sending their kids there. The building is being built right next to a recently refurbished rail siding on a spur line that runs directly and ONLY to a recently re-commissioned military base that’s rumored to be a ObamandingoFEMA Deathcamp.

    I know it’s TRUE, because I read it on teh interboobz*.

    * Yeah, okay, I wrote it, too.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    Can you imagine the reaction if they were building a Muslim only dorm?

  • ragingapathy

    I guessing Troy still practices a “No Spartans” policy, so no dorm for them.

  • dingojack

    ragingapathy – Don’t be silly. The Greeks are in that big wooden dorm over there – the one shaped like a horse.

    Dingo

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