FM on religious freedom

by Winnie Blackwood

Ethnic and religious diversity go hand-in-hand, and FM is working towards a mutual respect of all beliefs.

“Our [FM] mantra is civility. We want everybody to be treated with respect and we want to treat people with respect,” said Jane Kelley, vice president of Student Affairs.

She added, “That’s how we feel about our college here, and if there are differing opinions about religion, I would think that I would respect your opinion about your religion and your faith, and as I would ask you to do the same with mine.”

According to Kelley, FM will propose a draft of a policy on the grounds of eliminating religious discrimination. Still in the very beginning stages, she said the policy will ensure students are able to celebrate holidays that otherwise are not given off by FM, without any repercussions.

The policy will set guidelines for circumstances if they arise.

Kelley remarked, though, “Because we’re a public college, religion really doesn’t come into our picture that often.”

However, there are situations in which administration and students can exercise their right to freedom of religion without ramifications.

Christopher Rogers, adviser to the Word of Grace Club, said he used to teach Biology; the Word of Grace Club is a club focusing on Christianity. He would discuss both the theory of Evolution and Creation, letting his students draw their own conclusions.

“Nobody came to me and said, ‘Oh, you can’t talk about Creation,’” he said.
Word of Grace studies the Bible, but according to Benjamin Martin, the club’s vice president, others with different beliefs can come to the meeting and have a friendly conversation.

Gretchen Albrecht, a club member, said “We’re not going to push you away or shove you away, just because you don’t believe in what we do.”

Martin, Albrecht and two other members of Word of Grace agreed that they believe FM is more tolerant than other colleges and educational institutions.

The Think Peace Club’s stance, according to their advisor John Van Bladel, is also accepting of all religions. Van Bladel believes individuals should have this freedom, but respect should be given to those with differing beliefs.

Gwendolyn Ossenkop, Coordinator of Student Activities and Director of the College Union, said any religious group on campus can create a club.

She added FM is working on creating space for those with other beliefs, like Muslims, who have to go through a ritual before praying several times a day. A televised worship is also available for practicing Muslims.

There is talk of a nondenominational place of worship, which could be put in the Global Village. Currently there is an interfaith space on campus, located in C-131.

The space allows students to practice their faith in private, said Arlene Spencer, director of International Student and English as a Second Language Program.

Imran Suhail, a student at FM and a practicing Muslim, said the college and it’s students have been welcoming to him. The only problems he has are being addressed, such as the creation of the interfaith space. He also suggested, more classes on religion and the many beliefs present in the world.

FM student Cody Simonds, an Atheist does not have a problem with the way FM is handling freedom of religion.

“I think everyone should be able to express their religion really, as long as they don’t push it onto others,” Catherine Hladik, a FM student and Agnostic, said.

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