David McAfee is a University of California, Santa Barbara student applying for a spot in their Religious Studies program for grad school.
I don’t know David and I don’t know if he’s a worthy candidate. But he has a lot of writing about religion to his credit:
… features in American Atheist Magazine, Canadian Freethinker Magazine, and my own self-published book entitled “Disproving Christianity: Refuting the World’s Most Followed Religion”.
Not a bad resume for an undergraduate.
So put yourself in the position of the person looking at his application. What would you pay attention to? Hopefully, a sample of his writing (and, therefore, his ability to research, understand, and communicate his thoughts about religion), his grades, recommendation letters, etc.
What would be irrelevant? His personal beliefs. Those shouldn’t matter. This isn’t a Christian school where everybody has to be in lockstep with the school’s interpretation of the Bible.
So it’s disturbing to learn what Ann Taves, the Chair of the Catholic Studies Department at UCSB, did during an interview with David:
Taves instantly turned to her computer — looked up my name — and took only one minute to browse my bookselling page on Amazon.com before saying “I need to word this carefully… you wouldn’t fit in with our department’s milieu because you are an atheist activist with an axe to grind.”
She didn’t say, “Your writing lacks proper research,” or “Your undergraduate grades don’t cut it,” or “There are more qualified applicants.”
She said his personal beliefs would make him unfit to study in the department. She didn’t even seem to consider the possibility that an ardent, out-of-the-closet atheist could be objective when it comes to discussing and debating religion.
Of course, the official rejection letter didn’t say that. And David says Taves later blamed his grades.
But, if this story is true, it shows incredibly poor judgment on the part of a school official. To reject someone outright because of his beliefs — and not the quality (or potential quality) of his work — reeks of discrimination.
David is filing a grievance claim with the school and has a few suggestions of how others can help him.
This is ultimately a game of he-said, she-said because there’s no proof of Taves’ statement. But I would hope the matter would be looked into by her superiors.
(Thanks to Kathy for the link)