Anatoly is vice-president of a campus atheist group that meets at Wilfrid Laurier University, a public school in Ontario, Canada. The goal of the “Laurier Freethought Alliance” (LFA) is: “to promote science, freedom of inquiry, skepticism, and a good life without the need for superstition or religious belief.”
Sounds reasonable, no?
For whatever reason, it has taken nine months for a school representative to get back to the leaders about the LFA becoming an “officially recognized” campus group. Groups that are “officially recognized” get perks that include free meeting space, potential grant money for events and activities, etc.
The school’s response to the request: “No.”
Why not? Here’s the email from the school representative (emphases mine):
While the Campus Clubs department understands the goals and visions of your organization, they are not compatible with the guidelines of what may be approved and incorporated into our department. While the promotion of reason, science and freedom of inquiry are perfectly legitimate goals, what is most in question in regards to your club’s vision is the promotion of “a fulfilling life without religion and superstition“. While this university is indeed technically a secular institution, secular does not denote taking an active stance in opposition to the principles and status of religious beliefs and practices. To be clear, this is not meant to say that the promotion of science and reason are illegitimate goals. But due to the need to respect and tolerate the views of others, the Campus Clubs department is unable to approve a club of this nature at this time. If you wish to adjust and rethink your club’s application and vision, you may resubmit a revised proposal at any time.
This means that religious groups (like Campus Crusade for Christ) get recognition from the campus, but the atheist group will get none. It also implies that religious groups are tolerant of each other while the atheist group is not. (“If you don’t believe what we do, you’re going to Hell for eternity” is apparently the epitome of tolerance.)
Sounds like a clear case of discrimination against atheists.
Anatoly adds this:
We suggested both a revision and a meeting with them. We’ll see how this turns out but I wanted to let the freethought blogging community in on it and ask those who had previous experience founding freethought groups if they had any such problems and how they can be resolved.
I don’t see what needs to be revised… but the bigger concern is just getting approved by the school. Hopefully, this was just ignorance on the part of one school representative that can be quickly corrected.
If not, though, I’m sure there are plenty of atheist lawyers who can offer Anatoly some good advice…
***Update***: Anatoly provides some more details here.