[MODERATOR'S NOTE: The following post by "Old Man Winter" (OMW) discusses the lack of religious tolerance on SIUC campus, particularly for those who profess Christianity in its many forms.
OMW asks for greater understanding from an academic establishment that is tone deaf to the meaning of religion. The regulators of religious freedom hide their ignorance behind a doctrinaire wall of church-state separation that violates the religious freedom clause of the First amendment. In social work, education, and law, students and staff are harassed for exercising their religious faith on campus. This is unconstitutional. But once again it has taken a major court victory to order SIU to "do the right thing": Christian Legal Society v. Southern Illinois University (2006). The following links show how FIRE and the Alliance Defense Fund (a religious freedom group) won this important precedent--a case now studied by SIU Law students! Click here, here and here. For a case involving the School of Work, see this Daily Egyptian editorial.
The root of this discrimination is ignorance of the law and the vital role religion plays in the public square. For more, see FIRE's guide to religious liberty: http://www.thefire.org/index.php/article/5061.html As always, if you feel your religious liberty is under assault, educate yourself and contact, FIRE, ADF, or the ACLU.]
"Old Man Winter" writes:
Anti-"Christian" rhetoric at SIU is little more than unawareness--a polite term--of its historical, theological and cultural complexity. In fact, there is not one "Christianity," but several. As Christians, we share the kergyma or proclamation that we somehow experience "God" in the historical figure of Jesus from Nazareth. After that proclamation, disagreements reign with far more frequency than agreements.
For academics to be unaware--for whatever reason--of these disagreements and the controversies behind them is simply inexcusable. Such unawareness, however, provides a vehicle through which ideological and political agendas that have nothing to do with intellectual discussion or academic freedom can occur. In short, pronouncing that "the Christians" will raise complaints about GLBT issues and that we intellectuals need to anticipate ignorant rantings about "sinful behavior" is simply wrong at best and offensive at worst.
Ignorance is not necessarily harmful in itself. When it is used, however, to label, categorize, shun and even attack colleagues, students and other human beings, such ignorance needs to be renounced as firmly as possible. To those who are so busy defending "rights," perhaps it may be necessary to ask them to become morally consistent. We who are people of Judeo-Christian faith have the right to practice our faith, explore our own issues, meet in peaceable assembly with our fellows and even debate the merits of our own assertions without fear of retribution, castigation, exclusion or stereotype. We as people of faith have something to offer the intellectual dialogue that can take place on a college campus and, in my experience, did until about 30 years ago.
We also have the right to raise questions about the claims of those who express different opinions in the spirit of intellectual give and take without having our inquiries narrowly labeled as "religion and (sexual) morality." For there to be any question of our intellectual part of the "search for truth wherever it may lead" only heightens the problems facing SIUC and, I presume, many campuses across the country.
Surely with the brain power present at a research institution like ours, we can do better. In fact, if we really believe what we say about justice, equality and academic integrity, we must.
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