University of Dayton Denies Official Recognition to Atheist Group… for the Third Time

***Update***: A response from atheist group leader Branden King has been published in Flyer News, the school’s newspaper:

It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter, and it does hurt to know that our efforts amounted to nothing in the eyes of the University of Dayton. I’ve been at this school for seven years, and for the last two, I’ve been trying my best to make this campus a better place for its students, especially a minority group that is being suppressed by the administration.

I want to apologize to all the students, both secular and religious, who gave our club the most fascinating conversations on campus. I am sorry for my inability to do more. We only want to be treated equally, to be afforded the same resources as all the other student organizations, nothing more. It is a shame that their fear of us is causing them to make decisions that are inconsistent with their mission statement and the values they claim to espouse.

The University of Dayton is a private Roman Catholic school in Ohio. Like many religious institutions of higher learning, they seem to welcome students who hold a variety of beliefs, including ones that don’t always fall in line with Church teachings, which explains why the Muslim Student Assocation, Spectrum (a gay-straight alliance group), Face AIDS (A group that supports condom distribution in Africa), and Quidditch Club (witchcraft!) are all registered student organizations at the school.

Well over a year ago, I wrote about how an atheist student group was trying to form there, only to get denied by the school:

“Student Life said we were a religious group so we had to get approval from Campus Ministry before we would be recognized,” [student Nick] Haynes said.

Haynes and [Branden] King said they met with Amy Lopez-Matthews, director of Student Life and Kennedy Union, and Crystal Sullivan, director of Campus Ministry, to get approval for the group. They said this meeting took place approximately two weeks before fall classes started.

Sullivan and Lopez-Matthews both said to them that UD could not back their group, according to Haynes.

Lopez-Matthews said their reason was because the group would contradict UD’s values.

“I don’t know, as a religious, Catholic university, how we can promote this,” Lopez-Matthews said. “It’s in direct contrast to what we believe.”

Riiiight. And we all know how much the Catholic Church loves gays and Muslims…

It’s really a cop-out answer to say this group would contradict UD’s values. The atheist group — like so many others at religious campuses — would be there to raise tough questions, discuss faith, and provide a safe haven for students who may be doubting their religious beliefs. Those are the types of discussions all universities — including religious ones — should welcome with open arms.

But for the third time in two years, the atheist group has been rejected:

We are a faith-based university with a mission of fostering formation in faith and respecting the dialogue between faith and reason. The University reserves the right not to endorse organizations that are contrary to our Catholic, Marianist principles.

Yes, the school has the right to reject the group, but their decision makes no sense, especially when you consider the university’s own stated mission (PDF):

The University welcomes persons of all faiths and persuasions to participate in open and reflective dialogue concerning truth and the ultimate meaning of life.

… unless, apparently, you’re an atheist. In which case, you can fend for yourself.

So gay students can meet, and Muslims who don’t follow Catholic doctrine can meet, and the group that supports contraception can meet, but the people who want to question faith are rejected… which means they’re unable to get funding from the school, advertise on campus, or set up a table on campus grounds like other groups.

What appalling hypocrisy. What cowardice. Even for a Catholic institution, this is pretty low. There’s no good reason for them to stop the atheist group from being officially recognized. They’re just worried about the bad PR they’d get if donors found out they offered any level of support to a group of heathens.

They don’t seem to care about the bad PR they deserve to get when everyone finds out how they’re rejecting free inquiry and putting a kibosh on a group that looks beyond Church doctrine to find answers.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • iikagenbob

    Which just proves again what a dirty word atheism is – when even the pagans get a witchcraft woo-woo club (and I’m sure I don’t need to mention how the bible feels about witches), we still can’t get the smallest amount of support… Pathetic.

  • primenumbers

    They must be ashamed at how poor their arguments for their religion are, and hence wish to avoid any form of organization that would result in scrutiny. Their “open and reflective dialogue concerning truth and the ultimate meaning of life” is obviously a lie.

  • Haha USA

    Religious proponents pride themselves in making no sense whatsoever.

    Let them have it their way. The youth of today are competent enough to jailbreak an iPhone so they are certainly smart enough to understand the stupidity of decisions like this.

    Dear Religion, please don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  • A3Kr0n

    Good thing that university doesn’t get any public tax dollars or I’d be pissed.

  • bernardaB

    I am writing to Ms. Lopez-Matthews pointing our her and the school’s hypocrisy I’ll be as polite as I can be, but others can write in whatever style they want. I also urge a campaign in high schools and to donors to boycott this lamebrain school.

    • DaytonSOFT

      She is the fall girl for the university. She will take any and all blame and deflect it from the people who actually make the decisions, the people I listed on my response here: http://flyernews.com/2013/02/07/2897/

  • Santiago

    The letter also states they have spaces to meet and the university allows them to have pannel dicussions (although they expect balance between faith and reason, however balance may be defined ). I would continue taking advantage of the ability to keep meeting/organizing and attempt reaplication for official recognition periodically (working to change things from inside)

  • Pattrsn

    My guess is the targeting of atheists is due to the fear or the belief among the Catholic hierarchy that atheism is true.

  • http://twitter.com/Opinionatedcath Opinionated Catholic

    As an Orthodox Catholic constantly worried about our Catholic Universities I think you do have a point. I really would not have a problem with a Muslim club. I would not have a problem with a club that is for people with same sex attraction but trying to live that life within the Church teaching. Though I have doubts that is going on here. The WITCHCRAFT club just floors me.

    So yes if all this is allowed then I am not seeing the justification for keeping the Atheist club out. I am not sure what is going on. Some of these groups seem far more problematic than a free thinkers club to me.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Opinionated Catholic, your opinion among other Catholics would have a great deal more clout, impact, and influence than the opinion of an atheist. Theists regularly dismiss our appeals for fair treatment out of hand, regardless of the merits of our arguments. They feel fully justified in their duplicity and hypocrisy, and they see no need to even examine their “justifications.”

      If you are “constantly worried about our Catholic Universities,” then please make your opinions and worry known in strong terms to the Catholics of the UD administration. A few dozen Catholics calling them on their cowardly bigotry is more likely to have a positive effect than an army of atheists doing the same thing.

    • http://twitter.com/Freemage69 Freemage

      Not really a ‘witchcraft’ club. It’s a Harry Potter fanclub that’s figured out a ‘real’ form of the fictional Quidditch matches from the books. So, basically, an unholy fusion of jock and nerd.

  • DaytonSOFT

    I am Branden King, founder and leader of this student organization. I wrote a response to them which was published in the school paper and can be found here:

    http://flyernews.com/2013/02/07/2897/

    This response may answer some of the questions that are sure to arise.

    • Haha USA

      We played by the university’s rules every step of the way, and every time we met their requirements, they’d set out another arbitrary hoop for us to jump through.

      The religious are over-experienced at jumping though hoops so I guess this is their way of actually making you feel included. Call it “idiocy training”, if you will.

      Jokes aside, a well written piece and we wish you lots of success giving bigotry a whipping.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bwolf44 Brian Wolf

      Branden,
      As a UD alumnus, I can say that I’m sorely disappointed in the University’s stance on the issue. I can’t say that I had reached my conclusions about religion while I was a student at the school, but my path down the road certainly began there. They may belive they can stop young people from growing beyond their faiths by stifling people such as yourself, but they’re wrong.
      I can only hope that, at some point, the administration will will change it’s stance, though I have my doubts.
      Thank you for your efforts.

  • meekinheritance

    So, they respect the dialog between faith and reason, but they won’t support it.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    They’re just worried about the bad PR they’d get if donors found out they offered any level of support to a group of heathens.

    That’s probably what it’s all about. Cherchez l’argent. Look for the money. They might be disproportionately dependent on a couple of big donors, people who are rich because they’re authoritarian, and who have become even more authoritarian because they’re rich. They like having PhDs kiss their asses, and they don’t like anyone questioning them. Authoritarians would definitely not like something called a Society of Freethinkers.

    • Georgina

      are atheists actually heathens?
      I thought that heathens were pagans, worshipping nature in high paces (where the heather grows) and other pagan stuff.

  • Georgina

    While I agree that it stinks, the RC has the home-advantage.

    Call the club the Pliocene Club, promoting Reason and Evolution.

    Concentrate on exploding the myths and later, when you have a sufficient number of members – you can register as a secular students association.


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