Why Won’t the University of Notre Dame Allow an Atheist Group to Form on Campus?
According to Notre Dame, all official student organizations must adhere to the University’s mission:
“A club’s purpose ‘must be consistent with the University’s mission… No organization, or member of any organization on behalf of the organization, may encourage or participate in any activity which contravenes the mission of the University or the moral teaching of the Catholic Church.”
It’s a private university. They have a right to do that. But I cant understand their logic.
If groups have to follow the moral teachings of the Catholic Church, is it weird that they allow a Jewish Club on campus? What about the Muslim Student Association?
Why do other private, religiously-affiliated schools allow atheist groups on their campus? (DePaul University, near where I live, has a fantastic group.)
And if they allow groups like those — and I think they should — they why did Notre Dame reject an atheist group from forming on campus?
The Student Activities Office (SAO) denied the club official recognition last year, citing a contradiction between Notre Dame’s mission and the intended purpose of the club.
In the club’s current proposed constitution, the mission is specified as “to provide a forum for students to discuss philosophical, scientific, religious and political topics free from [in]tolerance.”
The constitution said the club would create this venue by holding regular discussions, inviting guest speakers to campus to participate in academic conferences and forums.
[Senior Stephen] Love said official recognition is important because it would provide funding to make this program a reality.
“We want to form an official club so we actually have official meeting rooms and we’d get some University funding so we could bring in guest speakers to come in and spur debate,” he said.
Love said this dialogue would be open to the religious as well as nonreligious students on campus.
“We technically have a secular agenda, but we want people from all different faiths to come and discuss,” he said. “That’s how you advance your ideas, by having them challenged.”
So the school created another hurdle for the atheists:
“For this proposed club, the approval of Campus Ministry is necessary to be considered a club,” the letter stated. “Upon review of the materials submitted, Campus Ministry indicated they would not approve this club.”
Love said he disagreed with the department designation.
“I don’t know where they got that, that Campus Ministry is the appropriate department,” he said.
But the Campus Ministry was perfectly fine with the Muslim group?! Someone explain that to me…
Even without the school’s approval, though, Love and other students have been holding meetings regardless. The group is pretty strong, actually!
“We’ve been meeting underground this whole time,” he said. “When it started it was just a couple of friends and I, but within two or three weeks, just by word of mouth, it went from five to 10 then 30 to 40, and we haven’t even made an active effort besides one small advertisement in The Observer … Now we have 40 or 50 on the email list.”
With an established “unofficial” membership, would-be club vice president Love and president Brian Robillard reapplied for club status last month. The new application has received approval from the Philosophy Department and is awaiting SAO review.
That is awesome. There’s no reason they should be denied approval. Notre Dame is probably just too worried that an atheist group might gain some traction and get too many people to think critically. Can’t have that in a college setting, can we?
To the Atheist, Agnostic and Questioning Students: If you need a speaker this year, let me know. I’m not that far away and I’ll come for free 🙂