Stop promoting Christian nationalism, FFRF demands of West Texas A&M

Texas A&M University pamphlet

Quit propounding religious sectarianism, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is asking the West Texas A&M University leadership.

A concerned student reported that West Texas A&M University has started the Hill Institute, a conservative think tank. The institute is designed to promote “Texas Panhandle Values.” Among these is the “The Free And Open Exercise Of Faith: in recognition of natural law, as an inarguable right of every human being, and the historic relationship of personal belief in a thoughtfully guided moral order.” The Hill Institute cites Joseph A. Hill, its Baptist namesake, who believed in the “importance of Judeo-Christian values in a free society,” and wrote books such as One Man’s Faith.

FFRF also addressed in its letter a violation concerning the school’s president, Walter Wendler, who authored a Christmas card to all West Texas A&M students, published on the university website and sent through his official university email, that includes three different biblical quotes. (See image above.)

It is perfectly acceptable that West Texas A&M University wishes to create a think tank and promote general values. It is also reasonable that a university president wishes to celebrate a joyous season. However, FFRF emphasizes that, like all public institutions, the university is bound by the federal Constitution — including the Establishment Clause.

“Public universities may not promote or favor religion,” FFRF Anne Nicol Gaylor Legal Fellow Sammi Lawrence writes to Wendler. “Under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, government must remain neutral between religions, and between religion and nonreligion.”

As the Supreme Court has stated, “The government may acknowledge Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, but under the First Amendment it may not observe it as a Christian holy day by suggesting people praise God for the birth of Jesus.” By sending a religious message to students, Wendler unconstitutionally favors Christianity over all other faiths in violation of the First Amendment.

Further, FFRF stresses, it is inappropriate for a public institution to promote “natural law” and “Judeo-Christian values.” While private actors are free to discuss, debate, promote or disparage as they wish, state actors — like Wendler and the Hill Institute — must not promote sectarian values over secular values, or religion over nonreligion.

West Texas A&M University serves a diverse community with diverse religious beliefs. Promoting “Judeo-Christian values” through the Hill Institute, and Christianity, as Wendler did in his Christmas card, needlessly alienates the students, faculty and community members who belong to the 37 percent of Americans that is non-Christian, including the nearly one-in-three Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated. A recent survey reveals that almost half of Gen Z (those born after 1996) qualify as “Nones” (religiously unaffiliated). West Texas A&M must be neutral with regard to religion in order to respect and protect the First Amendment rights of its community.

“The behavior of West Texas A&M leaders and institutions is a subversion of the values that a secular public university is meant to uphold,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

You can read the full FFRF letter to West Texas A&M here.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with over 40,000 members across the country, including more than 1,700 members in Texas. Our purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. 

If you are an FFRF member, sign into your account here and then update your email subscriptions here.

To become an FFRF member, click here. To learn more about FFRF, request information here.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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