Religion on campus: something to praise

By Steven Avila |Staff Writer|

Few things rile people up like religion.
But that’s no reason to keep it off our campus.
While there doesn’t appear to be any opposition at the moment, it can turn a lot of heads.   Granted religion should be kept separate from some things, like politics (separation of church and state) but it doesn’t need to be demonized and excluded from what’s supposed to be a place of diversity, culture and education.
A common argument I hear for the banishment of religious clubs/organizations from campus is that all religions can inspire prejudice, hatred and a kind of brainwashing.
This is moot because the same could be said for just about every aspect of our lives.  A person’s ethnicity, gender, nationality, social class, job, etc can cause trouble as quickly as religion can.
Let me be clear.  I was raised in a religious family but I’m not the kind of person who follows his faith in every rule, never questions his beliefs, and pretends his church is perfect.
And I’m not saying there are no extremes because we know there are.
Fact is any religion is like our country: it has good intentions yet has made mistakes from time-to-time.
Regardless of the mistakes of religion people view as being harmful, it doesn’t justify keeping religious clubs off college campuses.
The biggest reason why?  Something called the First Amendment.
The First Amendment proclaims the freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  As long as it’s not stepping on one’s civil rights it’s good to go.
On the flip side, getting rid of religious groups from campus would be violating those same rights.
Besides while religious zealots may cause trouble in the world, at least here on the CSUSB campus there hasn’t been much of a problem regarding anybodies beliefs or offense taken to anything.
Mark Hartley, director of student leadership and development, said that the department believes in free speech.  He says there’s been no complaints or problems in his time here.  And even if there were, there are disciplinary protocols in order that could be called on though he’s never had to go that route.
And how about the clubs themselves?
There’s certainly a lot of diversity on campus with the Catholic Newman Club, Campus Crusade for Christ, and the Muslim Student Association.
These days, there’s even a place for atheists: the Secular Student Alliance.
I’m sure members of these clubs are as passionate about their beliefs as anyone and yet are they ready to go to war with each other?  Not even close.
Jason Neal, a member of the SSA, said the club wants to open a dialogue with the various religious groups and are open to listening.
A former member of the Newman Club said to me it’s filled with reasonable open-minded people.
My suggestion?
We as a society and a community just need to be open to listen to each other.
It sounds simple and cliche perhaps if members of these organizations are willing to be open to each other, why shouldn’t everyone?  Listening to other viewpoints doesn’t mean you have to be convinced of those beliefs.
You may even think they are out of their minds and you’re entitled to your opinion.
The bottom line is the range of religious groups on campus is something to be proud of.  It shows our diversity and dedication to open dialogue, and proves we can get along just fine.

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