This is a copy of a letter I recently sent to the AL.com blog, it is a response to a story they ran about our local university adding religious only housing at the school. I had already contacted the university, the FFRF, the DOJ, and other groups about this. I cannot sit by and watch a publicly funded university do this unopposed, and unquestioned.
My name is Ned Carter, I am in my mid 30′s, a father of 2, married. I am currently a college student in the State of Alabama, and Troy was my choice for my next step in my education (Computer Sciences and Maintenance). I currently have an AS in Science and am working toward an AS in Computer Maintenance. I am a member of a couple of local Secular and Freethought groups, but they are not involved in my actions taken regarding Troy State.
I was particularly concerned with the Vice Chancellor stating (in no uncertain terms) that Christians would be given preferential treatment to get those beds. I was also concerned with the claims that the land (publicly bestowed to Troy as I understand) was sold to the private Troy foundation and then leased to the Catholic Church of Mobile. I was also concerned with a non school representative living in the dormitory and having constant access to the students.
I have contacted the school with my concerns and they directed me to the housing office and I am waiting for a reply from them. I have contacted the FFRF and the DoJ.
My concerns are multiple:
1. Was the land bought at fair market rates, and is it leased at a fair rate? Or are tax payers subsidizing a church through repayment of construction loans and a sub rate lease with dorm fees.
2. Are the rooms in the dormitory provided free of charge to the students, if not will Pell Grants or other federal financial aid monies be put toward paying for the fees for students staying in the dorms?
3. How does the school determine if someone is eligible to stay in these exclusive 376 rooms?
4. Does the school now demand that you define you religion on your admissions, if not are you automatically discriminated against in housing?
5. Is this dorm public? Who decides who can and cannot stay in the dorm.
6. If there are 376 beds set aside for Christians does this not give preferential treatment in admission to Christians, because they have their own specific beds not eligible for the non religious (atleast, not eligible until there are no more christians looking for beds).
7. Is Title IV Section 2 of the civil rights act being violated because of the 376 beds set aside (and thereby 376 enrollments) for a certain specific religion? As the Vice Chancellor said Christians are preferred.. but other faiths are accepted. What about those of no faith, or those unwilling to state their faith?
I am an atheist, I am not ashamed to say this in a place where I rank lower than a rapist in the minds of the people. I am a loving parent, a devoted husband, a hard worker and a fairly good student. I have many concerns with the direction our nation is taking. We are a nation of Christians (80%ish) with a Secular government to protect us from the tyranny of the majority. I have no problems with people of faith, or their ability to practice their religions as they see fit. I have issues with those who believe that it is ok to demand that their religion be held above any other belief system. I have a problem with our Nations current system of Christian Privilege. It is assumed that Christianity is the default status of everyone, and that anything done in the name of Christianity should be deemed beyond reproach.
The actions taken by the University of Troy in segregating housing based on the faith of the students is a frightening thing to see in 2013. College is a place to expose you to new ideas, new faiths, differing opinions. These differences help to foster the mind into seeing the world from new perspectives. Echo chambers do not lead to new ideas, and constant reinforcement of ideals does not lead to an open mind. The school is saying that Christians are different, they need to be separated from those with less perfect ideals, less perfect ideas, and less perfect morals (since it is basically a morality system). It shows the students that they are better (or atleast not the same) as the students who do not define themselves based on their faiths. I find this disturbing, to say the least.
I am not a lawyer, but it seems impossible to separate the admissions process from the housing process. It also seems impossible to insure that the school is not asking a question they have no right to ask: What is you religion? The school has no need for this information if there is no segregated housing. It also makes the school seem partial to accepting christians over any other faith and especially against those without faith. I understand that they are trying to increase enrollment by pandering to the local communities, but the students have the power to create and maintain faith based groups (which they have done). It seems that this will demand the school create faithless housing only, muslim only housing, and eventually baptists only, episcopalian only, etc. If the school feels that segregation based on faith is ok, they will have to provide equal access to housing based on specific belief systems, and that is absurd.
I believe that this creates a religious test to enter a public university, since there are beds set aside specifically for only the faithful. That is a guarantee of 376 beds which is a guarantee of 376 students who are christian being enrolled. The school should never concern itself with the thoughts of its students, their beliefs, their preferences. The school is supporting a form of thought control that should never be acceptable on a college campus. One group is held above all others in a demonstrable and real way.
And that there is a non university person in charge of the dormitory (the priest) seems to be the school allowing a certain religion access to students who are their to learn on public monies. This is taking money from the public to go to university, and having a certain church given access to those student who now live there. 24 hour a day access to a specific religious point of view seems to be an endorsement if not a full fledged sponsorship. The dormitory (while not technically part of the schools) is in actuality on there because of the machinations of the school, and those involved in the private trust. Can the two really be defined as separate entities when they work hand in hand on a daily basis?
With these concerns in mind, I have written to the FFRF to look into my concerns. I have also contacted the DoJ Civil Rights in Education Division with my concerns over the possible violations of Title IV section 2. I do not do these things to be against religion. I am not attacking Christianity (as I have been accused of repeatedly). I am a concerned citizen, I love my Nation, and my community. I want my children to be able to go to a school and learn about anything they want. I want everyone to be seen as a human. Segregation, even voluntary is not a path any public university should contemplate let alone prefer. Ask The University of Alabama how well it worked for them.
Thank you for your time.