Laurier Freethought Alliance Gets Press

The atheist student group at Wilfrid Laurier University has been getting a lot of terrific press coverage. They were denied “official campus group” status at their school because they promoted “a fulfilling life without religion and superstition.” This was deemed intolerant… which made no sense at all.

The campus newspaper wrote about this yesterday.

The mainstream media picked up on it today.

Here’s Barbara Aggerholm‘s article from The Record, a local paper in Ontario:

The campus clubs’ executive, a part of the students’ union, took issue with the group’s goal to promote “a meaningful life without superstition or religion,” [group vice-president Anatoly Venovcev] said.

“When we submitted the paperwork, they thought that it would be just an exclusive organization of people that professed no religion. We would be excluding people who have a religious belief.

“They then replied to us in a manner that we thought was being exclusively intolerant of us as people of no religion because they saw that we would be actively against religious belief.”

The result is “the stir you’re seeing right now across the Internet,” he said.

The issue has attracted blogs with names like Canadian Cynic, A Creative Revolution, Pharyngula, Sandwalk, and Friendly Atheist.

Woo! Thanks for the mention.

Toronto-based The Globe and Mail picked up on that article as well.

If all goes well, LFA should be a recognized campus group by the end of the week:

Specifically, the group has been speaking with Sanjay Ojjo, VP: Finance for WLUSU, who noted that the LFA is planning to re-submit their application today, as long as they add some statements which reflect that the group will be tolerant and inclusive of all groups on campus.

“Given the circumstance, it should be done by the end of the week as long as they fulfil their requirements of putting in their proposal to be respectful of all while engaging communities in meaningful debate about God,” said Ojjo.

Of course, I don’t know any campus atheist organizations that doesn’t do this anyway. So it should be an easy confirmation.

Congrats to Anatoly, Tyler Handley (group president), and everyone else who helped make this happen!

***UPDATE***: Anatoly passes this along:

Hey Hemant… WE’VE BEEN RECOGNIZED! :D

Thanks man, really, for all the help you did. You and the Friendly Atheist blog is an inspiration for everyone who still believes in basic principles of tact.

We’re actually been in the local television news as well, first Tyler, today at 6:30 pm and me, a bit later today, at 11:30 pm.

And for your readers out there who believe we might have compromised some of our core values, I’ve read over our new constitution and will put it on my blog when I get a copy of it. Basically it came down to this: Adding two lines, one stating that we would be inclusive to any religious person who would want to have meaningful religious discourse (not a problem, our stance all along), and two, stating that we would not engage in any vindictive assaults on religion – only logical critique (again, not a problem).



[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://www.acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Hey Hemant… WE’VE BEEN RECOGNIZED! :D

    Thanks man, really, for all the help you did. You and the Friendly Atheist blog is an inspiration for everyone who still believes in basic principles of tact.

    We’re actually been in the local television news as well, first Tyler, today at 6:30 pm and me, a bit later today, at 11:30 pm.

    And for your readers out there who believe we might have compromised some of our core values, I’ve read over our new constitution and will put it on my blog when I get a copy of it. Basically it came down to this: Adding two lines, one stating that we would be inclusive to any religious person who would want to have meaningful religious discourse (not a problem, our stance all along), and two, stating that we would not engage in any vindictive assaults on religion – only logical critique (again, not a problem).

  • Milena

    Good for them. I was pretty shocked when I read about the campus’ refusal to recognize the group. Wilfrid Laurier was actually my third choice for university applications this year, and this incident certainly didn’t bump it up the list. =/

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  • Richard Wade

    Good to hear a satisfactory outcome. However I have one question:
    While the addition of the two lines that reassure about being inclusive and not vindictive are certainly already part of the LFA’s values and so are not a compromise of their principles, do the currently recognized religious groups on campus have similar overt promises to be inclusive and non-vindictive in their core values statements?

    If not, then why not? If not, then why is the desired behavior of the religious groups taken for granted (or not required) while the atheist group must make an overt promise to adhere to that behavior?

    If there is a recognized group for African Americans on campus, were they required to include an overt promise to not be “vindictive” to other races? If there are Republican or Democrat groups on campus, have they had to promise to be inclusive and non vindictive to each other as well? Do stamp collectors have to promise not to beat up coin collectors?

    It’s not a question of whether or not the LFA will behave decently on campus. Of course they will. It’s their having to assuage the ignorance-based fears of the WLUSU administration that I find objectionable. Having to say they won’t be vindictive only reinforces the supposition that atheists are vindictive.

    “Inclusive” is pretty obvious, but what the hell is meant by “vindictive” anyway? What are the fearful fantasies of the administrators or members of the religious groups? Physical attacks? Burning churches?

    If there are such discrepancies then the bigotry against the atheist group is still officially sanctioned by the WLUSU because of the unequal requirements of the various groups’ core values statements. Not that I think anything will be done about it, I’m just pointing it out.

    Hopefully groups like the LFA will over time be able to dispel the idiotic fear and loathing that has resulted in requiring the extra promise that they will be nice.

  • http://www.acosmopolitan.blogspot.com Anatoly

    Richard – we didn’t ask to look at the constitutions of other clubs (and frankly I don’t care), but if the recent news that the Campus for Christ is actually not an officially recognized club because they have been denied status is an indication, than I imagine so.

    I think a statement about non-vindictive attacks (which, by the way, I think you know the meaning of), would have been a non-issue if not that during the negotiations a snide comment I made a while back about Muslim extremists didn’t surface from the group’s Facebook page. Now, regardless of it’s validity or it’s nature of being a personal communication to Tyler, the Facebook group page was representative of us as a club and they asked to get it removed and put it a line about tactful criticism when it’s expressed in a public sphere.

    By the way, I should point something out to you, which some members of the Campus Clubs recently admitted to me – some of their key people are themselves atheists who are very interested in participation in the club or very liberal “cultural” theists who frankly don’t care, so you cannot claim that religion was a problem for them.

  • Richard Wade

    Anatoly,
    There may not be any but I want to be sure there is no wrong impression from my remarks. I in no way wish to diminish your success in your struggle or the excellent goals of your group. Please accept my hearty congratulations. I was merely curious about whatever difficult or easy processes that other groups have faced in gaining recognition. The issue of theists’ or the general public’s misconceptions about freethinkers and atheists is important to me, so I was interested in how much of a role that played in this affair.

    I honestly don’t know what a non-vindictive statement means in this context and I’m not being deliberately dense. I have learned to never assume things about other’s assumptions about atheists. They can be quite unexpected. Often I find that people’s beliefs about non believers are more bizarre than their religious beliefs.

    The news that Campus for Christ was denied is interesting but we should not necessarily assume that a similar issue was the cause of their being denied. Only they and the administration know I suppose, and as you say it is probably not worth caring about at this point.

    The interest from other Campus Clubs members is encouraging. Could it be that this whole controversy has actually increased your potential membership? I wish you much success. Persevere.

  • QrazyQat

    I also think you guys maybe don’t realise how much the bad and growing publicity for the university helped you; you seem to think these guys just came around on their own (yet the statement of theirs about timing you mentioned on your site makes that seem unlikely). You need to be polite, sure, and work with them, sure, but you also need to be carrying that big stick Teddy R mentioned.

    The blogs and the commenters and the media that results from all that was your big stick.

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