Sunday, September 12, 2010

More Religion on Campus

What I find really annoying is that on this fine Sunday afternoon I have to be bombarded with chain e-mails from my colleagues about "the power of religion and prayer to bring inner peace." We have a service where you can e-mail every single professor at our university at once, which is useful for work related purposes. It's annoying enough that people use this service to find homes for kittens and puppies (accompanying each such e-mail with endless pictures of said dogs and kittens that make your mail-box crash), sell football tickets, houses and cars, and share their general dissatisfaction with the universe. (I'm sorry your students prefer checking their Facebook pages to listening to your ununspiring lecture, but how does it help to fill my mailbox with your complaints?) Inconsiderate as hell, that's what it is.

However, when this service is used to expose me - completely against my will, mind you - to religious propaganda coming from my workplace on my day off, that's simply unconstitutional. We are a state university. The US Constitution guarantees separation of Church and State. This means that at my state university I have a constitutional right to be protected from other people's religious rantings. I don't dump my religion on them, so why do they dump theirs on me? These are educated, well-read people we are talking about. Is it possible that they don't understand how offensive (let alone unconstitutional) their attempts to proselytize amongst their colleagues are?


Richard said...

Perhaps such frenzied religious activity is one more sign that the U.S. Universities are in decline. The Economist last week (4-10 Sep) had an opinion piece suggesting that U.S. University System is on the verge of collapse. The piece gave three reasons for this dire conclusion: 1) because promotion and tenure are based on the amount of published research that is churned out by professors, neither they nor the university administration really care if their students learn anything or not; 2) although research and development (R&D) especially in science and technology are the lifeblood of universities their overall competence in R&D is steadily going down as measured by number of patents and licenses issued to university researchers; and 3) that “administrative bloat” has had much to do with rising tuitions and declining productivity of universities. “Between 1993 and 2007 spending on university bureaucrats” rose much faster than spending on teaching facilities. I am sure you will find the last point particularly interesting.

Izgad said...

How are you being physically harmed? I thought being exposed to as many views as possible was a good thing. :p

Are you ready to send the police after people who quote C. S. Lewis in an email?

Clarissa said...

Izgad: where on earth did I mention physical harm and police?? I just want my constitutional rights to be respected in the workplace. I have a right to be protected from inane religious drivel at a state university, that's all.

Izgad said...

Do you believe that a crime was committed against you? If so you have to be willing to endorse the use of physical force to protect you. That is what governments are.

Clarissa said...

I don't think it's a crime. I think it's simple disrespect towards a) me and other colleagues and b) the constitution of the United States.

What's the point of working for a state school if even there you can't be protected from these fanatics?

Clarissa said...

Richard: I hate to agree with the report you quote but it surely feels like we are on the verge of a collapse. There are things that could e done right now to turn things around but there is this deep-seated inertia among my colleagues and I don't know what can be done to wake them from their torpor.

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight. You are a academic (whatever that means), at a University, and you believe that getting a forwarded e-mail from a random colleague referring to a general theme of prayer and religion infringes on your Constitutional rights? I'm no fan of religion, but your "rantings" seem to represent another sign that higher education is in decline. Is it possible that you don't understand how silly (let alone uninformed) your attempts at blogging are?

Clarissa said...

No, anonymous you didn't get the situation straight, just as you didn't get the word "academic."

I'm suprised that so many Amerians don't see how egregious this situation is. I get en-email from my place of employment. From my state-owned place of employment containing religious propaganda. I don't ahve a choice not to open the e-mail. And the next one belaboring the same point. And the one after that. I have been robbed of my right NOT to be exposed to religious propaganda because these communications come from my place of employment.

If tomorrow you will start getting e-mails that you have to open from your STATE employer, extolling the virtues of the Koran, will that be fine too? Seriously?

It just goes to show how the years of religious fanatics in power robbed people of any understanding how wrong this seepage of religion into public life is.

Anonymous said...

My opinion of your claim of Constitutional infringement comes from a reading of case law interpreting the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, not from "religious fanatics in power." And it would apply equally to an e-mail from a co-worker about the virtues of the Koran. (Although the example you originally gave was even more of a stretch because it did not suggest that the e-mail was affiliated with any particular religion.)

The act of receiving a religious e-mail from a co-worker--even in a public school e-mail account--can be easily distinguished from cases where city governments put up nativity scenes of statutes of the ten commandments(See, e.g. County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989); Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U.S. 677 (2005)) and from cases involving state-sanctioned prayer (See e.g. Lee v. Weisman, 505 U.S. 577 (1992)), etc. The primary difference is that the religious views you are being forcibly subjected to is coming from another person, not the state.

You do not have a Constitutional right not to be exposed to ideas you disagree with--even religious ideas--at work. In fact, to impose such a restriction on your co-workers would likely itself violate the First Amendment (right to free speech).

In any event, after browsing your blog for the last hour or so, I do not expect this comment to convince you of anything.

I admire your passion.


Clarissa said...

Matt: it's great to see someone with so much knowledge of the constitutional law.

Now, this wasn't just any colleague, this was a senior faculty member and a departmental Chair. While the e-mail wasn't sent by the State, the mailing list was instituted by our comon employer. As I said, we can't disregard those messages.

Initially, we got an e-mail from another colleague who shared certain activities she is organizing with the students. The senior faculty member started berting her for not mentioning religion and prayer. She started defending herself and he kept pushing.

I don't see how any of this appropriate.