Texas Christian University Grants Official Recognition to a Campus Atheist Group

Back in February, I posted about how a group of students at Texas Christian University wanted to start an atheist group:

“Freethinking Frogs” is being founded by Alexis Lohse.

The transfer student said she wanted to establish an organization “that was agnostic and secular,” so that students with those beliefs would have a place free to discuss and challenge conventional religious thinking.

It’s not as surprising as you might think; secular students attend religious (at least in name) schools for all sorts of reasons, including the kinds of programs they offer and the quality of education. I attended one myself for grad school and nearly attended one for undergrad.

The idea of an atheist group getting approved didn’t sit well with some of the students on campus:

“There are some kids… who might not want their beliefs challenged,” said student Michael Smith.

What?! Challenging students’ beliefs?! ON A COLLEGE CAMPUS?! Oh, the humanity! Won’t someone think of the children?!

Anyway, there’s finally some good news to report.

This past March, TCU quietly granted official recognition to the group:

When asked by Christian News Network how this decision to recognize the Freethinking Frogs comports with TCU’s standing as a private Christian school, university spokeswoman Lisa Albert emphasized that the unbelieving students followed all the appropriate procedures in applying for recognition, and were thus granted official acceptance. Additionally, she explained that TCU openly encourages all students to explore a wide spectrum of ideas and beliefs.

“The university culture allows for diversity of thought and open dialogue,” she said, “providing a platform … for students to engage with others of differing opinion and ultimately, make decisions for themselves.”

As one friend of mine put it, TCU chose to emphasize the word “University” in its name instead of “Christian” — putting critical thinking over automatic dogma — and that’s precisely what an institution of higher learning should be doing. Asking questions and discussing religion with a skeptical eye should be welcome at any university, including religious ones.

I asked Alexis Lohse, the founder and chair of the group, about how the group is going so far and what the reaction has been like on campus:

To date, a number of students have joined the Freethinking Frogs and we are very optimistic and enthusiastic about the group. However, the reaction of the student body as a whole has yet to be seen. The response from faculty has been very supportive with many professors letting us know they are happy to see a group like ours on the TCU campus.

The Freethinking Frogs are forming during a transitional time for the university. TCU is changing from a small, regional private institution to a more prominent academic and athletic presence. As the diversity of the student body increases it seems like the hardest crowd to please will be the alumni… While non-believing students have not been part of the “traditional” TCU profile we are proud to have the support of our university and look forward to becoming a lasting part of the TCU community.

She’s not kidding about pleasing the alumni. One person wrote the following letter-to-the-editor in the most recent TCU alumni magazine:

I see that as pushing all the right buttons :)

Congratulations to the Freethinking Frogs for getting the group off the ground. I have no doubt it’ll grow, as groups like these often do at religious schools (and in religious communities).

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.