The Student Body President of This Christian University is an Atheist… and No One Seems to Mind

Eric Fromm is the student body president at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon.

And last week, he publicly outed himself as an atheist:

Eric Fromm (via Facebook)

I was an atheist long before I came to NCU. I was baptized Lutheran, and raised Methodist, but as time went on I slowly came to the conclusion that God wasn’t real. For me, church was an empty ritual that I participated in so I could see friends, scripture was largely mythological, and Jesus was a great moral teacher, but he wasn’t God.

Yes, yes, I know: What about the obvious question?

Now you may ask, “Well, if you’re not a Christian, why did you come to NCU?” Truth be told, I came to NCU not because of its religious affiliations, but because it had a solid communications program. I knew that the school catered to Christian thinking, so before I enrolled, I visited the campus to make sure that the chapel services were comfortable enough that I could fulfill the requirement. No one was speaking in tongues or handling snakes, so I decided to stay.

Eric isn’t the first atheist to attend a Christian school. He isn’t even the first atheist to be student body president at a Christian school — hello, Evan Clark! — but he may be the first to come out after being elected in that position.

Surprisingly, even the administration doesn’t seem to have a problem with it:

Michael Fuller, the university’s vice president for enrollment and student development, said he’s known about Fromm’s views for years and didn’t question his election as student body president.

“He’s a man of very high character and respect,” Fuller said of Fromm. “He’s a great advocate for our student body, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be and do.”

I don’t doubt that Eric can do the job he was elected to do… but… but… is he even allowed to be at the school?!

Turns out he is. According to the school’s page of Frequently Asked Questions:

We welcome students who have no faith commitment or are from other faith commitments. NCU is not a ‘church’, nor do we require students to be Christians or to subscribe to any faith statement. At the same time, all students should be prepared to be exposed daily to a Christian world-view and to be encouraged to a Christian faith commitment. As a community, we are committed to living out our middle name.

In that case, more power to him!

Eric says that the article has resulted in almost all positive feedback:

“I knew friends would be accepting, but I didn’t expect as much support” and positive feedback from across the campus, he said. Some students have even identified with his perspective, he said.

“For the past couple years, I thought I was the only one,” he said.

Seriously, what an inspiration. Coming out is hard enough at a secular school, but to do it at a Christian school when you’ve already garnered a certain level of respect from the other students? That takes guts.

Eric deserves a lot of respect for coming out as he did. He may even help other students at the school find the courage they need to do it themselves.

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.

  • Rationalist1

    That’s wonderful to hear. Kudos to the administration for allowing this stident to attend and I’m sure his example will if nothing else change other students impression of atheists.

  • http://youtu.be/fCNvZqpa-7Q Kevin_Of_Bangor

    We welcome students who have no faith commitment or are from other faith commitments. NCU is not a ‘church’, nor do we require students to be Christians or to subscribe to any faith statement.

  • Glasofruix

    At the same time, all students should be prepared to be exposed daily to
    a Christian world-view and to be encouraged to a Christian faith
    commitment.

    I see no problem with the “be exposed to” but the “be encouraged to” makes me cringe a bit: “We welcome students from all faiths and with no faith but we’ll actively try to change your mind to match our own beliefs anyway”.

    • Buckley

      But at least they are up front about this and as a student you have the ability to resist and stay as you are or change. But at least you know going in.

      • eric

        Yep, I agree. The school is telling potential students exactly what to expect, letting them make an informed choice. It wouldn’t be my choice, but I respect their honesty.

    • Art_Vandelay

      Yeah, I think you’re wrong on this one. They’re not trying to hide what they are and they’re certainly not forcing anyone to enroll. As far as I’m concerned, the Dean can walk into the student square and ejaculate the second coming of Christ if he wants.

  • closetatheist

    My reaction to practically every sentence in this article was “fuuuuck, YEAH!” This is an excellent example for a religious school to set and it made my day knowing that people can be so agreeable towards others.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Will my faith be challenged if I attend NCU?

    We sure hope so!!! … It is the goal of our Christian community to
    help each other all grow in our knowledge, love, and obedience to Jesus
    Christ.

    Me and NCU have extremely different definitions of “challenged.”

  • Levon Mkrtchyan

    Thank you for reporting on this story, Hemant! Reading about it really makes my day. It’s really great to be pleasantly surprised.

  • Sven2547

    “He’s a man of very high character and respect,” Fuller said of Fromm. “He’s a great advocate for our student body, which is exactly what he’s supposed to be and do.”

    Judging a young man based on his skills and character?! Outrage! Scandal!

    • 7Footpiper

      Very un-Christian™.

  • WallofSleep

    Someone will… and then they’ll bludgeon everyone within earshot with lamentations of “DECLINE” and “END TIMES”.

    Taking bets… I wager that Fischer will be the first to latch onto this. Or maybe someone from WND.

  • atheismFTW

    Stories like this give me hope for humanity’s future. Keep ‘em coming!

  • MNb

    Eric deserves a lot of respect indeed – but he also shows what the default position should be.

    “Coming out is hard enough at a secular school”
    Not for me when I was a teenager in The Netherlands more than 35 years ago. And my son (my ex-wife is a believer) went to an RCC-school, then a muslim school before he entered the secondary school where I teach. At the age of 14 he was an atheist; at that age I was an agnost yet.

    • Terry Firma

      Goed om te horen, MNb!

  • Mitch

    If only it worked so well in the political arena… Basing decisions on the person’s character and actions instead of their religious label.

  • Artor

    Eugene is a pretty solidly lefty town. I was surprised to find that there is a Xian college here in the first place, but I guess it wasn’t so liberal 100 years ago. We do have a few wingnuts here, but the crowds of protesters in front of Planned Parenthood rarely number more than 5 or 6 people, several of them kids who would obviously rather be somewhere else.

    • invivoMark

      Yeah, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal to me. Oregon ranks highest in terms of nonbelief (Gallup 2009), and Eugene is even more radical than the rest of Oregon in pretty much every way. It is hardly the environment where discrimination against atheists would be acceptable.

      If this happened at a Christian college somewhere in the Bible Belt, that would be totally different.

    • smrnda

      I live in a pretty liberal town, and I note that (I don’t know if this is a recent thing or if I’ve just noticed it recently) small ‘protests’ or 1-3 people near the planned parenthood. The ‘protestors’ seem so unenthusiastic that I wonder if someone found some people desperate for a little cash and gave them signs.

  • WilliamLongfellow

    Fantastic on all counts!

  • Castilliano

    Know why they don’t mind?
    Because he doesn’t use prayer to get things done.

  • gamma

    This doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. I am an atheist and attended a small Christian college in the midwest. The students at my school cared about things like increasing wages for campus jobs, improving the dorms, and the quality of food in the cafeteria. They could have cared less about the religious beliefs of the student body president as long as he/she worked with the administration on behalf of the students. Perhaps the students at my school were more accepting than students at a typical Christian college, but I got the impression we were already pretty typical.

    • quickshot

      No, its typical.

      No offense to Hemant, but he likes to play up the “I can’t believe there are cool Christians out there!” card more than I am comfortable with. All Christians hate fun and all atheists eat babies…..what else is new?

  • Bill Miller

    Funnily enough, “Fromm” is German for “Pious”….

  • FTP_LTR

    From an apatheist background, in a community where religion was peripheral and largely irrelevant, for me, stories like this always read like something from The Onion. “Man wears red socks to work. Nobody notices.”

    Yes, I know this is a Christian College, but even so.

    “Man tells Christians he’s an Atheist: Christians say, ‘whatever’…”

    It does, however, serve to illuminate the way that religious positions seem to be all-pervasive in US culture.

    • K’halaSH

      I would like to point out they did NOT just say “whatever” they were HAPPY for him. Not uncairing.

  • purelyjason

    I am an atheist who also went to a christian college. The ironic thing is that I was a christian when I enrolled and an atheist when I graduated. I think you pretty much make your college experience what you want it to be regardless of where you go. (With obvious exceptions: Lee Univ, Liberty Univ, etc.) Big applause to this guy!


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