Duquesne University is a Catholic school in Pennsylvania.
So is DePaul University, just outside of Chicago. DePaul has a thriving Secular Student Alliance group — the DePaul Alliance for Free Thought — which encourages conversations about religion between religious and non-religious students. They also bring in speakers for the school, question long-held beliefs of everyone, and raise awareness about atheism-related issues for the school population. They’re less interested in “proselytizing atheism” and more interested in educating people about religion and getting them to think critically.
You would think any university would support that sort of organization.
But it looks like Duquesne has a problem with anyone questioning the Catholic faith. Atheist students there recently tried to form an officially recognized group — which would give them access to money for events, free meeting space, etc. — but the student government rejected their application:
… the [Student Government Association] Organization Oversight Committee denied the organization Sunday night. The six to eight senators who made up the group unanimously voted Sunday night not to bring the DSS’s approval to a vote in front of the general SGA Senate, according to SGA President Zach Ziegler.
Zeigler said the DSS was denied mainly because it does not comply with Duquesne’s Mission Statement.
“This organization has a non-faith-based agenda,” Ziegler said. “We never got a real idea what was behind this organization.”
[Duquesne Secular Society founder Nick] Shadowen disagreed.
“I don’t think there’s anything controversial about promoting the ideals of scientific inquiry and critical thinking,” Shadowen said. “This group is not made to divide students but to unite them.”
The Rev. James McCloskey, vice president for Mission and Identity, agreed with Ziegler that the DSS is not a viable student organization for Duquesne.
“They [the DSS] assume positions that are antithetical to belief in God, and belief in God is at the core of our enterprise at Duquesnse,” McCloskey said.
The [DSS'] constitution states that “The DSS’s presence on campus will provide a platform for honest and open debate on the merits of secularism and its role in different areas on human society. The DSS encourages respectful relations between non-theistic … and theistic students and through these relationships hopes to alleviate the various stigmas attached to nonbelievers.”
Promoting respectful relations between people holding different religious beliefs?
An open debate on the merits of secularism?
Trying to do away with the stigmas attached to atheists?
Who knew Catholics were so against those things?
Keep in mind that Duquesne currently recognizes a Muslim group, a Jewish group, and a gay-straight alliance as official groups.
But the atheist group is the one that crosses the line…? Right.
You’ll never believe the argument Ziegler and McCloskey used to suggest an atheist group isn’t even needed:
Ziegler added that the DSS was also denied because Spiritan Campus Ministry already provides discourse between religious and nonreligious students.
McCloskey agreed, but added that campus ministry does not provide nontheistic programs.
“I think the approach of campus ministry is a unique one. It welcomes all students. It encourages dialogue,” McCloskey said. “But there is no specific program for that [atheistic students].”
I’m sure the debates are fascinating: Yahweh: Great God or Greatest God?
Shadowen’s going to appeal the decision. Good for him. Keep this story going. The more attention it gets, the better the atheists look, and the more shameful the school looks. It’s pathetic that Duquesne would deny a group recognition because it dared to tip over some sacred cows.
So now, Duquesne University joins the University of Dayton and the University of Notre Dame as schools where questioning religious beliefs is seen as a bad thing and fostering positive discussion between people of faith and no faith isn’t worth supporting.