Definitely Favoritism

Over on the Campus Blueprint blog, my friend Wilson Parker asks if the new meditation room is an example of inclusivity or favoritism.

It’s definitely favoritism.

First, let me be clear that I do not think the “room is unfair to Christians.” Like I said in my original post, the room is not unfair to Christians (or any religious tradition), it’s the policy that caters to request by followers of one religious tradition, but not the other.

Let’s not play games: the meditation room was created explicitly to fulfill a request by Muslim students to have a room where they can pray five times a day. The room was given a wash basin at the request of CUAB President Cierra Hinton specifically to facilitate the Islamic ritual of Wudu. That any student including non-Muslims can use the space is irrelevant. Christmas trees are also accessible to non-Christians- it’s not like they’re thestrals that can only be seen and enjoyed by certain students. But this defense was ultimately rejected by Chancellor Holden Thorp when Christmas trees were removed from Davis and Wilson libraries three years ago.

The absence of a Muslim a capella group is a non sequitur. Yes, no group of Muslims have requested to form such a group. But, Christians did in fact request that the Christmas trees be re-instated, a request which, again, was denied. The precedent thus established was that the university would not celebrate one set of customs over others (even though the compromise solution, putting up a menorah and Kwanzaa candles in addition to the trees, was shot down).

I’m glad the union is creating a meditation room, but if they were seeking true diversity they would not create a room specifically (though not exclusively) for Muslim students while not allowing Christmas trees or other religious symbols as well.

This is curious:

If a Christian group needs and would regularly use a meditation room with a crucifix, or if some Muslims decide that they want to form an a cappella group, then they can and should be allowed to do so.

I’m glad to see a liberal reject that idea that secularism necessitates atheism, but I sincerely doubt that, if a Christian group were to make that request, the Campus Blueprint would see it as “inclusive” or “accommodating,” but just another step down the road to theocracy…

3 comments

  1. The Muslim a cappella group is not a non-sequeter. This Christmas tree thing is.

    The Muslim community at UNC has obviously decided that they don't need an a capella group, whereas the Christian community doesn't need any prayer accommodations. We look after both groups, even when their needs are different.

    As for the trees, that's different. While your thestrals point is hilarious, it misses the point. Christmas trees are out in public and are within the experience of every student, while this prayer room is only in the experience of students who choose to use it. That's also the problem that administrators probably had with the Kwanza symbols and Menorah: it was still a public place, and that isn't entirely appropriate. I have trouble taking the Christmas tree argument seriously.

    Finally, I do want to equivocate the crucifix thing. Yes, I mean what I said, but I guess I want to reinforce that they would have to need the room and need for it to have a crucifix in order to practice their faith which, as far as I know, no contemporary Christian denomination does.

    1. A room in a public building at a public university is, to me, in a public place. In principle, I don't see the difference.

      Question: should a state actor like UNC get involved in debates about what is and is not needed for proper worship in a particular religious tradition? Hypothetically, a Christian group could say that they require a crucifix to properly practice their religion. Should UNC reply, "No, you don't"? If so, then why allow a wash basin because that is definitely involving the university in the debate over proper religious practices within Islam.

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