Life Marriage & Family Religious Liberty

Choosing Between Your Faith and Your Education

Posted in Religious Liberty on: March 17th, 2011
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“Choose between your faith and your education.”

That’s what some public universities have been telling their students. Seventy-one percent of public university professors surveyed in 2007 said this country would be better off if Evangelical Christians kept their opinions out of the public square. Over half (53%) of those same professors stated that they feel unfavorable toward Evangelical Christians, in contrast to 73% with favorable feelings towards Jews and 68% with favorable feelings toward Buddhists.

It’s not surprising then, that attacks on religious liberty are particularly common on public university campuses. Some professors and university leaders tout intellectual diversity, while ideas are stifled because they are unpopular or not “politically correct.”

These incidents are occurring across the country, including right here in Arizona. That’s why CAP is supporting HB 2565, which ensures that universities and community colleges do not infringe on the rights of students to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs.

In a Senate Education Committee hearing on Tuesday, ASU graduate Bethany Miller testified about her personal experience of religious discrimination. Here’s what Bethany had to say:

Other examples abound – like when a student at Los Angeles Community College delivered a speech in a public speaking class for an open-ended assignment about his faith and read the dictionary definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. His professor called the student a name, refused to grade his paper, and told the student to “ask God” for his grade.

In 2006, a student enrolled in a program at Eastern Michigan University that would allow her to serve her community as a high school counselor. In spite of earning straight A’s in her curriculum, the student was expelled for refusing to counsel a client about goals that violated her religious beliefs, even though she consulted with her professor and referred the client to another counselor.

We are pleased that Arizona’s three public universities have agreed to HB 2565 and that ASU President Michael Crowe has recently lauded the importance of religious student groups on campus.

University students should not be forced to make the choice between getting an education and following their religious beliefs, and HB 2565 ensures that for Arizona students.

Posted by Deborah Sheasby

Deborah is Legal Counsel at Center for Arizona Policy. She works to advance CAP’s mission through advocacy at the Capitol and in the courts. Deborah has a heart for all of CAP's issues, but was drawn to the movement because of her belief in school choice, and the value of empowering parents to make educational decisions for their kids.

12 Responses

  1. Bonnnie Fridenmaker says:

    Education: To bring up or train up
    Teach: To impart knowledge.
    Learn: To gain knowledge
    I find it interesting that professors and teachers forget that learning is to have a classroom that assists students to search out that which they are imparting into students. If the student did the assignment that hit the objective, then he/she had no right to condemn the student. I believe this law is long overdue! As an educator, I may not agree, but I can disagree offering respect and dignity to the individual I disagree with. If all I want is for students to regurgitate my opinion then I have to ask did I provide an atmosphere that enhanced learning or hindered it. Whatever has happened to freedom? Proud of our University Presidents!!

  2. […] Sheasby writes at the Center for Arizona Policy Foundations Blog (includes video): “These incidents are occurring across the country, including right here in […]

  3. Missy says:

    I do not find it amazing that professors at any university or higher educational facility would be against a Christian perspective. There is a long history of our universities were the breeding ground and battlefields for change in America.

    The universities have long preached ‘enlightenment’ & ‘acceptance’ while by majority they are only accepting of accepting the enlightenment that moves away from Judeo-Christian beliefs. Why? Because that laws & morals of ‘the establishment’ were the target since the 60’s social revolution. And the goal has always been about ‘fighting the establisment’.

    For 50 years now our teachers, professors, psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, biologist, business executives, etc. have been educated by our universities (on a conscious & unconscious level) to move away from anything Judeo-Christian.

    The only change is now they are brazen enough by their ‘majority’ status at the universities to blatantly discriminate against religious student.

    I too am grateful for the administrations of our AZ universities supporting HB2565. However, I’ve known many a student withing the universities who do suffer this incrementation. Sadly, many have caved to giving up their religious belief.

    Was this intentional? I, like many Christians, believe it was intentional. That is why we have to get serious & be intentional about turning this around!

  4. Missy says:

    correction….(on a conscious & subconscious level)

  5. GW Bru says:

    For a congress that always talks about separation of church and state…they seem to be determined to impart on Christians every hinderance that they can find all the while providing encouragement for other denominations. If the Chrisitan religion is so offensive…no one is forcing you to practice it…but to ignore it or the students that practice it and believe in it, I find to be criminal and very offensive. I am proud to be a Christian and would respect others to follow theirs, if that is their desire…BUT DO NOT STOP ME AND FELLOW CHRISTIANS FROM PRACTICING THEIRS!

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  9. Ben says:

    This will have devastating effects on the way psychologists and other aspiring mental health professionals are trained in AZ universities.

    “A university or community college shall not discipline or discriminate against a student in a counseling, social work or psychology program because the student refuses to counsel a client about goals that conflict with the student’s sincerely held religious belief if the student consults with the supervising instructor or professor to determine the proper course of action to avoid harm to the client” (Article 6, Section 15-1862, Paragraph E)

    This flies in the face of the American Psychological Association’s (APA) ethics code in which one’s religious beliefs must be set aside to work with the individual, and this will ALWAYS be the duty of the supervisor to inform the student. This makes supervisors and the institutions potential targets of legal action in a myriad of ways. Psychologists are taught to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds and beliefs that may be dramatically different from their own. Refusing care to a suffering individual because the therapist’s beliefs/lifestyle is different is absurd and abhorrent. The State of Arizona is risking all of its schools’ accreditation status with the APA with the passage of this backward law.

    From a statement via the American Psychological Association, “This provision is in marked conflict with both the ethical principles of psychologists and the standards for accreditation of our professional education and training programs, which are designed to prepare our workforce to meet our nation’s increasingly diverse needs.”

  10. I do enjoy the way you have framed this problem plus it does indeed provide us a lot of fodder for consideration. Nevertheless, because of everything that I have seen, I basically trust when the actual feedback pile on that people today stay on issue and not get started on a tirade of some other news du jour. Yet, thank you for this fantastic piece and while I do not concur with the idea in totality, I value your standpoint.

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  12. Etaoin Shrdlu says:

    This all sounds very innocent and noble, but look a little more deeply. These “courses” are being promoted around the country by an organization that is using them to turn the public classroom into a proselytizing forum not merely for Christianity, but for a very narrow version of that faith: Fundamentalism. They have also been struck down (almost every time I think) as unconstitutional.

    The Supreme Court has made it very clear that courses ABOUT religion are legal, courses attempting to teach and promote religion (and one religion in particular) are not.

    Instead of sponsoring legislation like this, why not do what the ACLU does. Whenever a teacher “crosses the line” and infringes on the religious freedom and free speech rights of students, it has acted to stop it. It has even fought for the rights of Evangelical students to pass out candy canes with religious messages on it.

    This is simply an attempt to have “Big Brother” promote the Fundamentalist faith. It will fail as all other such attempts have failed.

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