One decision all college atheist groups need to make is which category of student organizations they’d like to be included in: Religious? Academic? Other?
Penn State’s Atheist/Agnostic Association (PSAAA) is listed as a Religious group in the campus directory. As a result, they were allowed to sign up for office space in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center in campus.
That makes a whole lot of religious people feel uneasy:
“They have every bit of a right to express how they feel to other people and to exist as an organization,” said Jake Comerford, a member of Newman. “But in a center that struggles to give space to organizations for worship, they would probably be better situated in a place like the HUB.”
Comerford (junior-mechanical engineering) stressed his view was not that PSAAA does not “belong,” but Pasquerilla is in need of space for spiritual and worship services. “PSAAA has its place, and that place should not be in Pasquerilla,” he said.
For Father Matthew Laffey, director of the Catholic Campus Ministry, it is no question PSAAA should not be in Pasquerilla.
“It was always agreed upon by the affiliate staff that we wouldn’t do anything to offend other affiliate staff members,” Laffey said. “I don’t know how you bring something in here that’s diametrically opposed to what is intended to be done here.”
Laffey also stressed PSAAA is “not spiritual.”
“I mean, spiritual is in the name of Pasquerilla Spiritual Center for crying out loud,” Laffey said. “The center is trying to accommodate everyone and in turn creating a less spiritual place.”
The president of the PSAAA, Dan Farbowitz, finds good reason for staying there;
“It’s good for us to have a room so that students of other faiths, or of no faith, can stop by and have a dialogue with us,” Farbowitz (senior-physics, math and philosophy) said.
Isn’t that really the point?
How is an atheist group’s presence an more contentious than a Muslim group next to a Christian group next to a Hindu group?
The more, the merrier. If you want to learn about religion in college, go to a place where many options are available to you and you can learn about all of them.
(You can find out more about the PSAAA’s office space at Forms Most Beautiful.)
This isn’t a legal issue — the atheist group obviously has a right to be there. But the question is: Should they be there?
What do you think?