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At religious campuses, atheist groups operate underground

Late one night over pizza, University of Dayton students Branden King and Nick Haynes discovered neither of them believed in God.

Surely, they thought, they couldn’t be the only unbelievers at the Roman Catholic college.

Last year, King and Haynes and a couple of other like-minded students applied to the administration to form the Society of Freethinkers, a student club based on matters of unbelief.

The university rejected their application — and rejected them again in September. Without university approval, the group cannot meet on campus, tap a student activities fund, participate in campus events or use campus media.

For now, they meet at a Panera cafe off campus, relying on word-of-mouth to draw members, up to about 15 now. And they are appealing the rejection.

“A religious campus can be a lonely place for someone who doesn’t subscribe to faith,” said King, now 23 and a graduate student in biology. “We want to reach out to these people.”

The Dayton students are not alone. The Secular Student Alliance, a national organization of nontheistic students with 320 campus chapters, reports at least two other religious universities — Notre Dame and Baylor — have rejected clubs for atheist, agnostic, humanist and other nontheistic students. Students at Duquesne, a Catholic school, say they have little hope of approval on their first application this year.

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TAGGED: EDUCATION, FAITH SCHOOLS, SECULARISM


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