FFRF calls Troy University dorms illegal

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter on August 1 to the Chancellor of Troy University in Troy Al., explaining the illegal nature of faith-based dormitories on campus.

Troy University will open a 376-bed dormitory, the Newman Center, which includes a chapel and three Catholic and three Baptist resident advisers, The dorm will house religious students. Media reports that preference will go to Christian students with non-Christian only considered “if there [is] space available.”

FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes that preferring Christians over other religions, and even preferring religious students over nonreligious students, violates both Alabama and Federal housing laws.

Seidel goes on to explain that even a preference over religious vs. nonreligious students is also unconstitutional: according to the Supreme Court, “the First Amendment ‘requires the state to be neutral in its relations with groups of religious believers and non-believers.’”

Seidel also pointed out that the University cannot lawfully “make a determination of how religious a person is, and then discriminate among students based on that determination.” Troy University is constitutionally prohibited from dictating which students are “religious enough” to deserve a room in the new dorm. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment also prohibits a public institution from owning and operating a building with sectarian religious purposes.

In addition to the legal issues, FFRF pointed out that the dorm is a betrayal of the college experience and the University’s principles:

College is the time for students expand their horizons beyond their comfort zones, to meet new people from different backgrounds, to collide with new ideas that challenge and stimulate. This is arguably the most valuable facet of a college education – so valuable that it is memorialized in the Troy University Creed: “I acknowledge that Openness promotes new concepts and ideas, I celebrate our differences Justly and respectfully.” [1] The University’s decision to establish the Newman Center as a religious dorm betrays this principle and undermines the lesson. Institutes of higher learning should not be seeking to create insular, monastic communities, just the opposite.

“Students who wish to live in the Newman Center are required to ‘be respectful of diversity,’ but the facility itself is not respectful of diversity,” Seidel elaborates. “Its sole purpose is to create a space for devoutly religious, thereby excluding the nonreligious and religious students who are not devout enough.”

FFRF advises Troy University to open the Newman Center to all students regardless of religious belief and operate as any other dormitory would.

FFRF, a national state/church watchdog from Madison, Wis., has over 19,000 members and a local chapter, the Alabama Freethought Association.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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