This Issue’s College Issue: Religious freedom at LC

With recent religiously motivated attacks occurring on college campuses across the nation, we must maintain the tolerance currently practiced at LC

Religious affiliation is, at its finest, one of the strongest uniting forces in many communities throughout the world.  In its darkest and most confused state, however, it plagues our Earth with hate, genocide and holocaust. In many areas of the United States, a particularly unpleasant environment exists for those not practicing the popular faith of those around them. Far too many citizens in our nation hypocritically believe that the Constitution protects strictly their own freedom to worship, simultaneously attacking, defaming and misconstruing the faiths of others. Even our president — the man whose sole job is protecting and upholding the Constitution — recently launched his own attack upon minority religions within our nation.

It is easy to question the importance of religion in the lives of one’s peers if one chooses to remove themselves from any singular association with organized faith. At Lewis & Clark, our religiously unaffiliated campus proves consistent in its promotion of secular ideologies. There is no stressing of faith or religion upon our campus, nor any mentioning of what students ought to believe religiously. Student organizations aid in connecting students of a myriad of faiths with similarly aligning students and offer avenues both on and off campus for religious expression.  

Last semester, The Pioneer Log published a piece entitled “Religious students on liberal campus find community,” which detailed the experiences of three students on campus and their journey through faith in college. Representing Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, the students described that, once initial misconceptions from other students were addressed and clarified, they experienced mostly welcoming and tolerant support from their peers in the practicing of their religion. These idyllic experiences, however, are not shared  by many students throughout our nation, and although students at our “liberal” college may experience positive reception of their faith, students at ideologically similar colleges are experiencing religious persecution.

Recently, students at the University of Texas at Austin, University of Central Florida and Rutgers University were greeted with anti-Islamic fliers posted on their campuses. Sporting an image of the Twin Towers and an American flag, the posters proclaimed, “Imagine a Muslim-free America” before providing websites for students to connect with American Vanguard, a white supremacist group. In late January, two students at Beloit College, a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin, were subjected to personal attacks upon their faith. One of the two, a Jewish student, received an anti-Semitic note slipped beneath his door, while the other, a Muslim student, found racial and religious threats spray painted on his door, as well as a swastika spray-painted on the door across the hallway.

Last semester at Reed College, the Student Body President circulated an email to the entire student body that read, “Hasidic Jews are like the Jewish version of ISIS.” While he attempted to apologize — and simultaneously blame his friends— for his statement, the damage had been done.

In the week following the recent presidential election, anti-Semitic, racist and homophobic graffiti were strewn across two separate bathrooms on Reed’s campus. A statement was released from the President of Reed College promising swift justice for the perpetrators, should they be discovered. Students and faculty on campus were shocked, as were many on the LC campus, that the sickening arms of anti-Semitism could possibly infiltrate such a progressive community as that of Reed. Yet, how surprised can we truly be when leaders such as the Student Body Pres0ident were sending out a horrendous anti-Semitic sentiment? It is shockingly unsurprising that when a student in such a prominent leadership position freely disseminates such disgusting information to the entire student body, other students — potentially those who may have agreed with the anti-Semitism — may find their own violent cause validated and act accordingly.

We must understand that for students to succeed within the collegiate environment, they must be able to access every aspect of their unique personhood. For many, that means the unobstructed and encouraged practicing of their religion. Though religious relations on campus at LC are not particularly contentious, many students are struggling throughout the nation. Continued support for the free expression of all religion upon college campuses should not only be required, it is a necessity for the academic and social success of many students.


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