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HIGHER EDUCATION BECOMING MORE HOSTILE TO FAITH

Presidents from colleges representing traditions of Protestant Christianity, Islam, Catholicism, Judaism and Mormonism recently gathered to discuss the challenges they face as secular society continues to grow more hostile to principles of “Abrahamic morality.” The  Council for Christian Colleges and Universities’ Conference is a network of over 180 Christian colleges worldwide.  Shirley Mullen, president of Houghton College in New York, said. “The current standard western narrative assumes that deeply-held religious beliefs, result in intolerance, conflict, violence, oppression.”  She said that a “new narrative” must be crafted to overcome this perception.

“There is much thoughtful dialogue going on among our students,” she continued.  “Those conversations are passionate  because they are grounded in fundamental moral and theological beliefs.” Mullen stressed that faith has provided much motivation for various social reform movements and the expansion of human rights in the modern world.  John Fitzgibbons, president of the Regis University in Colorado, suggested that on many secular campuses, people who advocate certain religious views on topics like sexuality and marriage find themselves shut out from the conversation.  It is an enormous mistake to cut-out faith from public conversation,” Fitzgibbons said.

Hamza Yusuf, co-founder of Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim college in the U.S., said that there is increasing hostility toward deeply-held religious beliefs at many secular colleges. “Where I am in Berkely, California, the most intolerant college is University of California, Berkeley, and it is the one that claims to be the most tolerant,” Yusuf said. “Because if you are not completely on board with all of their beliefs, then you are unacceptable, you are a bigot.  I don’t feel that we should be persecuted for adhering to Abrahamic morality.  It is just not really fair.” Yusuf said.

The presidents also expressed concerns with changes to standards for accreditation issued by one of the nation’s regional college accrediting agencies, Higher Learning Commission (HLC), which oversees 1,300 post-secondary schools.  Last year, the HLC issued a draft rule that removed language that instructed accreditors to take into account an institution’s “specific and diverse” mission when assessing a school’s commitment to diversity.  Leaders within Christian higher education fear such a rule would give the accrediting body the ability to decide whether a school “ensures inclusive treatment of diverse populations.”

As a number of Christian schools have statements of faith that oppose homosexuality, the fear is that the accrediting agency wields power to impact an institution’s abilities to receive federal student loans and federal grants if they are noncompliant.  Yusuf said that if religious colleges are to take their traditions seriously, then the demand that they “abandon a set of core principles of their religions” is not fair.  Yusuf said that in the future, he can see things “getting much more difficult” for Christian, Jewish and Muslim colleges “to adhere to basic Abrahamic morality without being considered bigots or preaching hate.”

Religious colleges are guaranteed the freedom to hold religious beliefs by the U.S. Constitution, but the Constitution doesn’t guarantee federal funding for them.  “There are many in society that want to choose an education that accords with their fundamental moral and spiritual roots,” Mullen explained.  “No students attend one of our institutions not knowing what they are getting into.  They are choosing to go to those institutions because of their values.”  Mullen said that civil society would be “worse off” if religious colleges who are committed to being “within the mainstream of American higher education”, were not granted access to federal funding.

Source: Christian Post